Upper Case and Lower Case Letters

The use of “upper case” and “lower case” when describing capital letters or “small” letters comes from the early printing days. Each letter was made into a block. The block letters were placed by hand in a row to make words that would be inked and then paper would be placed on top of the ink to create the printed page.

The blocks were stored in boxes called “cases.” The printers separated the “capital” letters from the smaller letters to make it easier to find the correct size, so they decided to store the capital letters in a case above the one for the smaller letters. The result? “Upper” case letters are today’s capital letters. “Lower” case letters are our smaller letters.

2 thoughts on “Upper Case and Lower Case Letters”

  1. Blocks of letters were ‘set’ in rows… backwards, so that when the sheet was laid atop the blocks and ‘pressed’ down they were imprinted on the paper in the right direction.
    [Compliments of my wife who learned that when she started her advertising career.]

  2. Great information, John; thanks! Backwards – clever!
    The days of type-setting and the printing press (so that people didn’t have to press the paper on the blocks by hand) were certainly monumental developments in the human world. In fact, some folks think that written history is the biggest difference between humans and other living things. Subsequently, the ability to print information quickly for a large audience must have been an amazing advancement to experience. Unfortunately, in my teaching experience, reliance on the printed word for tests causes problems for people who learn better through oral communication or kinesthetic experience. More on Learning Styles in a future post!


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