Capital ‘K’ for ‘kiwi’? When do you need one?

I once bought a kiwi-flavoured gelato in Italy. Excitedly, and in very bad Italian, I tried to explain to the gelato seller that I too was a Kiwi. He clearly thought I was mad.

Fair enough, too. In Italy, ‘kiwi’ means ‘kiwifruit’, not ‘New Zealander’. I may as well have tried to equate myself to a Sicilian orange or a slice of pizza Napoli.

Cross-cultural translation is just one way you can confuse ‘Kiwi’ with ‘kiwi’. The other difference — as you’ve probably guessed — is in the capitalisation.

Image, Kiwifruit ice cream.

Kiwifruit gelato. Image by Ragesoss / CC BY-SA

A Kiwi is a New Zealander

A ‘Kiwi’ with a capital ‘K’ is a New Zealander. We capitalise this word because we’re using it as the name of a nationality. We capitalise all nationalities.

She’s Malaysian
He’s Chinese
They’re Kenyan

We keep the capital even when using the nationality to describe something else.

A good old Kiwi barbecue
Delicious French bread
An American hot dog
A traditional Samoan umu
Dainty English high tea
A dozen Danish pastries

Image, sausages on a barbecue.

A good old Kiwi barbecue always includes a few sausages. Image by JuanitaClarke / CCO

A kiwi is a flightless bird

A ‘kiwi’ with a lower case ‘k’ is a native New Zealand bird. We don’t capitalise it because it’s a noun (a word that identifies a thing, like ‘apple’, ‘bicycle’, or ‘cheese’).

Our most iconic bird, the kiwi, is mostly nocturnal.

A kiwi can also be a fruit

As described above, some countries use the word ‘kiwi’ (lower case ‘k’) to mean ‘kiwifruit’. They’re delicious wherever in the world you eat them, and they’re very good for you.

Take care when referring to more than one kiwi or Kiwi

Because ‘kiwi’ (meaning the bird) is a Māori word, we don’t add an ‘s’ to show when there’s more than one. (Te reo Māori doesn’t form plurals that way.) Instead, we use the context to show whether the word is plural.

The kiwi is settling into its new environment.
The kiwi are in the nocturnal house with our three tuatara.

Because ‘Kiwi’ (meaning New Zealander) is a newer use of this word and adopted into everyday New Zealand English, it’s become acceptable to add an ‘s’ when the word is plural.

Many Kiwis think pavlova is the perfect summer dessert.

Read more about using capitals

Capitals: when is it the Ministry or the ministry? When it is Police or police?

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