Proper Adjectives

You’re probably aware that proper nouns are words that name a specific person, object, or place. You probably also know that proper nouns are always capitalized. But did you know that adjectives are sometimes proper, too? Read on to find out more about proper adjectives.

What are Proper Adjectives?

The vast majority of adjectives are common adjectives just as the majority of nouns are common nouns. Neither common adjectives nor common nouns begin with a capital letter.

When an adjective has its roots as a proper noun, it is said to be a proper adjective. Just like a proper noun, proper adjectives always begin with a capital letter.

For example, the noun country is a common noun but the word Italy is proper. Consider the following sentence:

I enjoy many different types of food but Italian food is my favorite.

In this case the word Italian is a proper adjective because it has its origin in the proper noun Italy. Proper adjectives are often used to explicitly describe something. They also make writing clearer and more succinct. Look at the sentences below.

The drama club performed the play Macbeth which was written by Shakespeare.
The drama club performed the Shakespearian play Macbeth.

The second sentence uses a proper adjective Shakespearian to convey clear meaning in few words.

The Canadian prime minister is visiting the White House.
The prime minister who currently holds office in Canada is visiting the White House.

See the difference?

Examples of Proper Adjectives

In the following sentences the proper adjectives are italicized. The proper nouns from which they originate are in parentheses.

The Chinese noodles are in the kitchen pantry. (
Italian cream cake is extremely rich yet delicious. (
Japanese robes are called kimonos. (
African dance is rhythmic as well as symbolic. (
Russian caviar is a delicacy. (
German cars are among the finest. (
Did French fries really originate in France? (
The band plays Christian music. (
The English Parliament is in session. (
Chinese culture peaked during the Ming Dynasty. (, Ming)
Political scandal erupted during the Nixon era. (
The candidate favors a Jeffersonian democracy. (
He is a true Renaissance man. ( time period)
Alaskan salmon is nutritious and delicious. (
Jill is looking forward to Hawaiian dance class. (
We enjoyed strolling through the quaint French villages.
The dress was designed with a Victorian influence.
The architecture was decidedly Georgian.
Our vacation plans include exploring the Mexican ruins.

In some cases you can convert a proper noun into a proper adjective simply by adding suffixes –ian, -an, or –esque to a proper noun. In other cases, the spelling of the proper noun isn’t changed at all as in Hollywood stars, or Texas poker. In any event, proper adjectives are among the easiest to recognize and form. Use them for explicit and specific descriptions in your writing.