John Oliver's recent episode on Mount Everest taught me a fascinating new term - a capitonym is a word that changes its meaning when capitalized. For example, March refers to the month while a march is a brisk walk and Hamlet is a renowned play while a hamlet is a small village. The best capitonyms can also change pronunciation based on the first letter, like Polish and polish. The etymology of capitonym is fairly obvious: the root is the word capital, and then there's the suffix -onym. We call uppercase letters capital because it's a synonym for important, and the word capital comes from Latin caput, meaning "head" (the head being the most important part of the body). That's from the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction kaput, with the same definition. -Onym is a useful suffix to know in linguistics because it shows up a lot, meaning "name" or "word". That's from Ancient Greek onoma, which derives from PIE hnomn, still "name".
Adam Aleksic, an incoming freshman at Harvard University, has been described as the internet's sixth most famous etymologist. He has disturbing interests in linguistics, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law, and he loves writing about himself in the third person.
The Etymology Nerd