What Is a Proper Noun? Simple Examples and Guide to Use

Proper nouns are specific types of nouns that are also called proper names. While common nouns start with a lowercase letter, proper nouns start with a capital letter. Learn more about proper nouns, how to identify them, and how to use them through definitions and examples.

Tropicana is a proper noun example Tropicana is a proper noun example
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Defining a Proper Noun

The definition of proper noun is:

“a specific person, place, or thing instead of a general one.” It is the exact and special name for any noun.”

A proper noun is usually understood as a noun that has an initial capital letter, no matter where it sits in a sentence. Proper nouns are almost always singular nouns.

Proper Noun vs. Common Noun

Proper nouns and common nouns are two types of nouns. A common noun is the general name of someone or something, like the word “dog.” A proper noun is the specific name of someone or something, like your dog’s name Fido.

Some common nouns can be proper nouns if they are included in a proper name. For example, "park" is a common noun. However, "Yellowstone National Park" is a proper noun because it's a specific place

Examples of Proper Nouns

Proper nouns can be broken down into different categories to help you remember them. The proper nouns appear in bold in these examples.

Names of People and Pets

The first, middle, and last names of people and pets are proper nouns. Common names of people can become proper nouns if they refer to a specific person.

  • Can you ask Mom to close the window?
  • Jennifer and Jackson took their dog Bailey for a walk.
  • Those hamsters aren’t as cute as my pet Fluffy.
  • I hope Mrs. Smith is my teacher next year.
  • My favorite cartoon character is Bart Simpson.

Names of Places

The specific names of streets, cities, states, countries and other geographical landmarks are proper nouns. The official names of places like museums, amusement parks, or zoos are also proper nouns.

  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Brazil
  • South America
  • the Rio Grande River
  • the Louvre
  • Disneyland
  • Australia Zoo
  • the Andes Mountains

Names of Days, Months, and Holidays

Days of the week, the names of months, and the official names of holidays are all proper nouns.

  • I have to work on Tuesday.
  • This Saturday is the fourth.
  • Come to my house in July for the party.
  • Is your birthday in the month of December?
  • I love Christmas more than Halloween.
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Names of Brands

Brand names are proper nouns because they describe a distinct product. Company names are also proper nouns

  • Nike
  • Cheerios
  • Google
  • Disney
  • Mountain Dew
  • Amazon
  • Walmart

Titles of People

People in specific positions are given titles. When these titles are used as part of their name, they are proper nouns.

  • Doctor Stevens took care of my broken leg.
  • I voted for President Trump.
  • The ship was steered by Captain Hook.
  • My minister, Father Abraham, has the funniest sermons.
  • Sir Elton John is my favorite singer.

Titles of Works

The titles of books, magazines, newspapers, movies, TV shows, songs, and plays are all proper nouns. For longer titles, only the most important words in the title are capitalized. Prepositions and articles are not capitalized unless they are the first word.

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (book title)
  • Jake and the Neverland Pirates (TV show title)
  • The New York Times (newspaper title)
  • Up (movie title)
  • “Baby Shark” (song title)

Proper Noun Capitalization

Proper nouns are always capitalized. You can read more about the rules for capitalizing proper nouns, but here are some examples of capitalizing proper nouns.

Common Noun

Proper Noun

lake

Lake Michigan

book

Divergent

company

Nike

painting

Mona Lisa

car

Ferrari

Tricky Capitalization Rules

Telling a proper noun from a common noun is pretty straightforward. Remember, while all proper nouns are capitalized, not all capitalized words are proper nouns.

Be sure to remember that while "I" is always capitalized, it's a pronoun not a proper noun.Take a look at the following examples to see other capitalized words that aren't proper nouns.

  • My Italian neighbor likes to cook homemade pasta.
    "Italian" might be proper but, in this example, it's not a noun. It's a proper adjective because it's modifying the word "neighbor."
  • If you want to drink Californian wine, go to a winery in Napa Valley.
    Although "Napa Valley" is a proper noun, "Californian" is not. Again, it's a proper adjective because it's modifying the word "wine."
  • Our waiter said, "The chef will come out to greet you personally," but he never came.
    "Our" is capitalized because it starts the sentence. "The" is capitalized because it starts the quote within the sentence. If the quote wasn't a complete sentence it wouldn't be capitalized.
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The Proper Way to Identify Proper Nouns

The only way to determine if a word is a proper noun is to know whether it is a specific name or a general name. Complete some common and proper noun worksheets to make sure you understand the difference, then take the noun quiz to see if you’ve mastered the concept.