What is a Proper Adjective? Definition, Examples of Proper Adjectives

Proper adjective definition: A proper adjective is a modifier that is formed from a proper noun. Like adjectives, proper adjectives modify nouns and pronouns.

What is a Proper Adjective?

What does proper adjective mean? A proper adjective is a type of adjective. Proper adjective is a word that modifies nouns and pronouns and is formed from a proper noun.

A proper noun is the specific name used for any person, place, or thing.

Proper adjectives typically look like their original proper nouns but have some sort of alternative ending in order to make them adjectives.

proper adjectives examplesProper Adjective Examples:

  • proper noun: America
    • I live in America.
  • proper adjective: American
    • The Fourth of July is an American holiday.
  • proper noun: Italy
    • I was born in Italy.
  • proper adjective: Italian
    • I love Italian food.

Proper Adjectives List

Proper adjective list Since proper adjectives are adjectives derived from proper nouns, there are hundreds, or even thousands of them.

Some common ones would be anything derived from a country or people group.

  • American
  • German
  • Italian
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Mexican
  • Colombian
  • Norwegian
  • Polish
  • Russian
  • Chinese
  • Korean
  • Japanese

As you can see, there are far too many proper adjectives to include on a single list.

Common Adjectives vs. Proper Adjectives

Proper adjective worksheets A common adjective is any adjective that is not a proper adjective. Most adjectives used in writing and speech are common adjectives.

Common adjectives are not capitalized. This is because they are everyday words, not derived from proper nouns.

Proper adjectives are derived from proper nouns. For this reason, they are capitalized.

Examples of Proper Adjectives:

  • We bought cheddar cheese.
    • the adjective “cheddar” is a common adjective
  • We bought French cheese.
    • the adjective “French” is a proper adjective because it is derived from the proper noun

Common Nouns and Proper Nouns

The concept of common noun and proper noun is similar to that of common adjective and proper adjective.

A common noun is any person, place or thing. A proper noun is the name of a particular person, place, or thing.

Common nouns/Proper nouns:

  • city/Boston
    • We live in the city.
    • We live in Boston.
  • girl/Joanne
    • That girl is my sister.
    • Joanne is my sister.
  • building/Washington Monument
    • He visited the building.
    • He visited the Washington Monument.
  • dog/Spot
    • Please feed the dog.
    • Please feed Spot.

Prefixes, Hyphens with Proper Adjectives

When a proper adjective has a prefix, the prefix itself is never capitalized (unless it is the first word of a sentence, of course). However, the proper adjective itself is still capitalized.

Examples of hyphenated proper adjectives:

  • pre-Columbian
  • un-American
  • anti-Semitic

Examples in sentences:

  • The event was pre-Columbian.
  • His actions were un-American.
  • That group is anti-Semitic.

Exercises with Proper Adjectives

Proper adjective sentences Decide if the following should be capitalized (proper adjective) or lower-case (common adjective).

  1. We have british
  2. I want to take spanish
  3. He has math class third period.
  4. Her clothing was italian-made.
  5. Let’s visit the art

See answers below.

Summary: What are Proper Adjectives?

Define proper adjective: the definition of a proper adjective is an adjective that derives from a proper noun and begins with a capital letter.

In summary, proper adjectives:

  • are derived from proper nouns
  • act just like adjectives
  • should be capitalized


  1. British
  2. Spanish
  3. common
  4. Italian
  5. common