Some questions invariably have an easier time being answered than others; it’s just a fact of life. And even when the topic is capitalization this remains true. Grammar can be complex, and English definitely is, so a lot of interesting and tough questions can arise easily. But today’s question is particularly tricky, so it’s better you pay close attention, as we try to answer…
Is Civil War Capitalized?
In most cases, the answer is a simple no, and that can be explained with the basic rules of capitalization. Words only need to be capitalized when they are at the start of the sentence, or when they are a proper noun, a word that refers to a proper title or name.
The word civil war on its own isn’t a proper noun, a civil war is just a kind of conflict, not any more specific than a football match or a movie screening. Civil war is never a proper noun on its own, so it should only be capitalized at the start of a sentence like in this one.
However there are many specific events and titles that use the words civil war, and in those cases, the entire title becomes a proper noun. If we talk about the famous movie Captain America Civil War we need to capitalize it, as the entire title is the proper name of the film. If the topic at hand is the American Civil War or the Spanish Civil War the situation repeats. This is because they are the proper names of a specific event and not just a civil war. A common usage of the word particularly in American articles is to shorten the American Civil War to just the Civil War, in this example the word is used explicitly as a synonym of the proper noun American Civil War, so it gets capitalized once again.
In short, civil war is not a word that is capitalized on its own, but as it’s very often used as part of proper titles it gets capitalized a lot. It’s just important to remember that this isn’t due to any special trait of the word civil war, but just due to the role it fulfills.