Reply to "The Devil (or the devil) is in the details. Proper nouns"

Several references note both "devil" and "Devil."

For example, the American Heritage Dictionary*'s entry for "devil" is this:

dev"¢il
n.
"¢ often Devil In many religions, the major personified spirit of evil, ruler of Hell, and foe of God. Used with the.

The LDOCE**'s entry:

"¢ the devil also the Devil

The Collins COBUILD***'s entry:

"¢ In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the Devil is the most powerful and important evil spirit... There are two forces at work: God and the Devil.

"¢ 2. a devil is an evil spirit...the idea of angels with wings and devils with horns and hoofs.

The Collins COBUILD has 11 entries for "devil," all without a capital. The references to sayings all have "devil" in lower case: "better the devil you know than the devil you don't know....had a devil of a job....like th devil....the devil take the hindmost...between the devil and the deep blue sea...speak of the devil...what the devil...."

The New York Times Manual**** states:

devil. Capitalize it in references to Satan, but lowercase devils and a devil.

The Oxford Dictionary of Allusions***** contains two pages of alternate names for "the Devil," and describes "Devil" this way:

"¢ "In Christian and Jewish belief, the Devil is the supreme spirit of evel. He is the enemy of God...The Devil is known by numerous names, especially Satan and Lucifer..."
_______

From the information above, it appears that "devil" is capitalized when it is a personification, when it is the name of a being. "Devil" is not capitalized when it refers to a spirit or the idea of evil.

Sometimes the distinction between a personification and a symbol are blurred, however.

Rachel
_______
*The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin. 2004
**The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. New Edition. Longman. 2003
***The Collins COBUILD Dictionary of the English Language. Harper Collins. 1995
****The New York Times Manural of Style and Usage, by Allan M. Siegal and William G. Connolly. Random House. 1999
*****The Oxford Dictionary of Allusions. Oxford University Press. 2001
×
×
×
×