Should “tiger” be capitalized?

No, the word “tiger” should not be capitalised because it is a general reference to a large wild cat and a common noun. When you refer to a “tiger” you are referring to generic tigers and not specifying their exact species. But if you place before the word “tiger” the place where this cat is found you are specifying the species of tiger and you should capitalise the place name because place names are proper nouns (name for a particular person, place, or thing).

Is "tiger" capitalised?
Is “tiger” capitalised?
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For example, if you want to be specific about a tiger you’d specify the species of tiger such as: Bengal tiger, Siberian tiger, Sumatran tiger and so on.

The same applies for all the wild cat species such as the African lion and Asiatic lion. Here the word “Asiatic” is capitalised too as it refers to a place, albeit a large area of the planet. Other wild cat species with places in their names are: European wildcat, North African wildcat (African-Asian wildcat), Asiatic golden cat, Chinese desert cat (note that this refers to the people of China but this is also capitalised), Canada lynx, Eurasian lynx, Iberian lynx, Andean mountain cat and African golden cat.

It is interesting to note that the great author and biologist, Dr Desmond Morris, who has written many books, sometimes capitalises the word “tiger”. Strictly speaking this is incorrect but grammar is quite flexible. It is not as if they are hard and fast rules which must never be violated on punishment of death!

At the end of the day it does not make a lot of difference because the important thing is to convey the meaning of what you want to say clearly and efficiently. People should not be hung up about grammar. The rules can be bent and they are elastic and changing. Grammar is just a convention, after all. They are artificial rules. If you look at ancient English it has changed vastly and in a thousand years the words on this page may look very strange.

2 thoughts on “Should “tiger” be capitalized?”

  1. Should “tiger” be capitalized? Only if you’re writing in German.

    “If you look at ancient English it has changed vastly and in a thousand years the words on this page may look very strange.” This may be true of Old English (aka Anglo-Saxon – there is no such linguistic term as “ancient English”); it is vastly different from Modern English, but one of the main reasons for this was the massive import of Latin-derived Norman French words starting in 1066. The Middle English period lasted from about 1150 to 1500. By the end of that time, English had assumed a form that is considered archaic but is still Modern English. However, the Modern English period also marked the advent of mass printing (Gutenberg build his first press around 1440), and with printing came a standardization in spelling, and a marked slowdown in the rate of language change. In the 350 years of the Middle English period, the language that emerged was barely recognizable from that spoken at the time of the Norman Conquest. However, in the 520 years since, Modern English is essentially the same as it was back then. The works of Shakespeare, written between 1585 and 1613, are easily accessible to 21st century readers. The US Constitution is 230 years old, but no dictionary or translating is required. Modern mass media is continuing the trend of halting language change; even attempts at spelling reform have failed. It is more than likely that readers in the year 3020 will still be able to read what is written today – that is, if we’re still around then.


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