How to make the first letter of a string uppercase in JavaScript? [Answered]

Sample query:

How do I make the first letter of a string uppercase, but not change the case of any of the other letters?

For example:

  • "this is a test" → "This is a test"
  • "the Eiffel Tower" → "The Eiffel Tower"
  • "/index.html" → "/index.html"

How to make the first letter of a string uppercase in JavaScript? Answer #1:

The basic solution is:

function capitalizeFirstLetter(string) {
  return string.charAt(0).toUpperCase() + string.slice(1);
}

console.log(capitalizeFirstLetter('foo')); // Foo

Some other answers modify String.prototype (this answer used to as well), but I would advise against this now due to maintainability (hard to find out where the function is being added to the prototype and could cause conflicts if other code uses the same name / a browser adds a native function with that same name in the future).

…and then, there is so much more to this question when you consider internationalization.

If you want to work with Unicode code points instead of code units (for example to handle Unicode characters outside of the Basic Multilingual Plane) you can leverage the fact that String#[@iterator] works with code points, and you can use toLocaleUpperCase to get locale-correct uppercasing:

const capitalizeFirstLetter = ([ first, ...rest ], locale = navigator.language) =>
  first.toLocaleUpperCase(locale) + rest.join('')

console.log(
  capitalizeFirstLetter('foo'), // Foo
  capitalizeFirstLetter("𐐶𐐲𐑌𐐼𐐲𐑉"), // "𐐎𐐲𐑌𐐼𐐲𐑉" (correct!)
  capitalizeFirstLetter("italya", 'tr') // İtalya" (correct in Turkish Latin!)
)

Answer #2:

Here’s a more object-oriented approach:

Object.defineProperty(String.prototype, 'capitalize', {
  value: function() {
    return this.charAt(0).toUpperCase() + this.slice(1);
  },
  enumerable: false
});

You’d call the function, like this:

"hello, world!".capitalize();

With the expected output being:

"Hello, world!"

Answer #3:

In CSS:

p:first-letter {
    text-transform:capitalize;
}

Answer #4:

Here is a shortened version of the popular answer that gets the first letter by treating the string as an array:

function capitalize(s)
{
    return s[0].toUpperCase() + s.slice(1);
}

Update

According to the comments below this doesn’t work in IE 7 or below.

Update 2:

To avoid undefined for empty strings, you can check for an empty string:

function capitalize(s)
{
    return s && s[0].toUpperCase() + s.slice(1);
}

ES version

const capitalize = s => s && s[0].toUpperCase() + s.slice(1)

// to always return type string event when s may be falsy other than empty-string
const capitalize = s => (s && s[0].toUpperCase() + s.slice(1)) || ""

Answer #5:

If you’re interested in the performance of a few different methods posted:

Here are the fastest methods based on this jsperf test (ordered from fastest to slowest).

As you can see, the first two methods are essentially comparable in terms of performance, whereas altering the String.prototype is by far the slowest in terms of performance.

// 10,889,187 operations/sec
function capitalizeFirstLetter(string) {
    return string[0].toUpperCase() + string.slice(1);
}

// 10,875,535 operations/sec
function capitalizeFirstLetter(string) {
    return string.charAt(0).toUpperCase() + string.slice(1);
}

// 4,632,536 operations/sec
function capitalizeFirstLetter(string) {
    return string.replace(/^./, string[0].toUpperCase());
}

// 1,977,828 operations/sec
String.prototype.capitalizeFirstLetter = function() {
    return this.charAt(0).toUpperCase() + this.slice(1);
}
enter image description here

Answer #6:

For another case, I need it to capitalize the first letter and lowercase the rest. The following cases made me change this function:

//es5
function capitalize(string) {
    return string.charAt(0).toUpperCase() + string.slice(1).toLowerCase();
}
capitalize("alfredo")  // => "Alfredo"
capitalize("Alejandro")// => "Alejandro
capitalize("ALBERTO")  // => "Alberto"
capitalize("ArMaNdO")  // => "Armando"

// es6 using destructuring 
const capitalize = ([first,...rest]) => first.toUpperCase() + rest.join('').toLowerCase();

Answer #7:

I didn’t see any mention in the existing answers of issues related to astral plane code points or internationalization. “Uppercase” doesn’t mean the same thing in every language using a given script.

Initially, I didn’t see any answers addressing issues related to astral plane code points. There is one, but it’s a bit buried (as this one will be, I guess!)


Most of the proposed functions look like this:

function capitalizeFirstLetter(str) {
  return str[0].toUpperCase() + str.slice(1);
}

However, some cased characters fall outside the BMP (basic multilingual plane, code points U+0 to U+FFFF). For example, take this Deseret text:

capitalizeFirstLetter("𐐶𐐲𐑌𐐼𐐲𐑉"); // "𐐶𐐲𐑌𐐼𐐲𐑉"

The first character here fails to capitalize because the array-indexed properties of strings don’t access “characters” or code points*. They access UTF-16 code units. This is true also when slicing — the index values point at code units.

It happens to be that UTF-16 code units are 1:1 with USV code points within two ranges, U+0 to U+D7FF and U+E000 to U+FFFF inclusive. Most cased characters fall into those two ranges, but not all of them.

From ES2015 on, dealing with this became a bit easier. String.prototype[@@iterator] yields strings corresponding to code points**. So for example, we can do this:

function capitalizeFirstLetter([ first, ...rest ]) {
  return [ first.toUpperCase(), ...rest ].join('');
}

capitalizeFirstLetter("𐐶𐐲𐑌𐐼𐐲𐑉") // "𐐎𐐲𐑌𐐼𐐲𐑉"

For longer strings, this is probably not terribly efficient*** — we don’t really need to iterate the remainder. We could use String.prototype.codePointAt to get at that first (possible) letter, but we’d still need to determine where the slice should begin. One way to avoid iterating the remainder would be to test whether the first codepoint is outside the BMP; if it isn’t, the slice begins at 1, and if it is, the slice begins at 2.

function capitalizeFirstLetter(str) {
  const firstCP = str.codePointAt(0);
  const index = firstCP > 0xFFFF ? 2 : 1;

  return String.fromCodePoint(firstCP).toUpperCase() + str.slice(index);
}

capitalizeFirstLetter("𐐶𐐲𐑌𐐼𐐲𐑉") // "𐐎𐐲𐑌𐐼𐐲𐑉"

You could use bitwise math instead of > 0xFFFF there, but it’s probably easier to understand this way and either would achieve the same thing.

We can also make this work in ES5 and below by taking that logic a bit further if necessary. There are no intrinsic methods in ES5 for working with codepoints, so we have to manually test whether the first code unit is a surrogate****:

function capitalizeFirstLetter(str) {
  var firstCodeUnit = str[0];

  if (firstCodeUnit < '\uD800' || firstCodeUnit > '\uDFFF') {
    return str[0].toUpperCase() + str.slice(1);
  }

  return str.slice(0, 2).toUpperCase() + str.slice(2);
}

capitalizeFirstLetter("𐐶𐐲𐑌𐐼𐐲𐑉") // "𐐎𐐲𐑌𐐼𐐲𐑉"

At the start I also mentioned internationalization considerations. Some of these are very difficult to account for because they require knowledge not only of what language is being used, but also may require specific knowledge of the words in the language. For example, the Irish digraph “mb” capitalizes as “mB” at the start of a word. Another example, the German eszett, never begins a word (afaik), but still helps illustrate the problem. The lowercase eszett (“ß”) capitalizes to “SS,” but “SS” could lowercase to either “ß” or “ss” — you require out-of-band knowledge of the German language to know which is correct!

The most famous example of these kinds of issues, probably, is Turkish. In Turkish Latin, the capital form of i is İ, while the lowercase form of I is ı — they’re two different letters. Fortunately we do have a way to account for this:

function capitalizeFirstLetter([ first, ...rest ], locale) {
  return [ first.toLocaleUpperCase(locale), ...rest ].join('');
}

capitalizeFirstLetter("italy", "en") // "Italy"
capitalizeFirstLetter("italya", "tr") // "İtalya"

In a browser, the user’s most-preferred language tag is indicated by navigator.language, a list in order of preference is found at navigator.languages, and a given DOM element’s language can be obtained (usually) with Object(element.closest('[lang]')).lang || YOUR_DEFAULT_HERE in multilanguage documents.

In agents which support Unicode property character classes in RegExp, which were introduced in ES2018, we can clean stuff up further by directly expressing what characters we’re interested in:

function capitalizeFirstLetter(str, locale=navigator.language) {
  return str.replace(/^\p{CWU}/u, char => char.toLocaleUpperCase(locale));
}

This could be tweaked a bit to also handle capitalizing multiple words in a string with fairly good accuracy. The CWU or Changes_When_Uppercased character property matches all code points which, well, change when uppercased. We can try this out with a titlecased digraph characters like the Dutch ij for example:

capitalizeFirstLetter('ijsselmeer'); // "IJsselmeer"

As of January 2021, all major engines have implemented the Unicode property character class feature, but depending on your target support range you may not be able to use it safely yet. The last browser to introduce support was Firefox (78; June 30, 2020). You can check for support of this feature with the Kangax compat table. Babel can be used to compile RegExp literals with property references to equivalent patterns without them, but be aware that the resulting code can sometimes be enormous. You probably would not want to do this unless you’re certain the tradeoff is justified for your use case.


In all likelihood, people asking this question will not be concerned with Deseret capitalization or internationalization. But it’s good to be aware of these issues because there’s a good chance you’ll encounter them eventually even if they aren’t concerns presently. They’re not “edge” cases, or rather, they’re not by-definition edge cases — there’s a whole country where most people speak Turkish, anyway, and conflating code units with codepoints is a fairly common source of bugs (especially with regard to emoji). Both strings and language are pretty complicated!


* The code units of UTF-16 / UCS2 are also Unicode code points in the sense that e.g. U+D800 is technically a code point, but that’s not what it “means” here … sort of … though it gets pretty fuzzy. What the surrogates definitely are not, though, is USVs (Unicode scalar values).

** Though if a surrogate code unit is “orphaned” — i.e., not part of a logical pair — you could still get surrogates here, too.

*** maybe. I haven’t tested it. Unless you have determined capitalization is a meaningful bottleneck, I probably wouldn’t sweat it — choose whatever you believe is most clear and readable.

**** such a function might wish to test both the first and second code units instead of just the first, since it’s possible that the first unit is an orphaned surrogate. For example the input “\uD800x” would capitalize the X as-is, which may or may not be expected.

Hope you learned something from this post.

Follow Programming Articles for more!

About ᴾᴿᴼᵍʳᵃᵐᵐᵉʳ

Linux and Python enthusiast, in love with open source since 2014, Writer at programming-articles.com, India.

View all posts by ᴾᴿᴼᵍʳᵃᵐᵐᵉʳ →