Wikipedia:Naming conventions (definite or indefinite article at beginning of name)
|This guideline documents an English Wikipedia naming convention.|
It is a generally accepted standard that editors should attempt to follow, though it is best treated with common sense, and occasional exceptions may apply. Any substantive edit to this page should reflect consensus. When in doubt, discuss first on the talk page.
Introduction: This guideline is about naming conventions for Wikipedia articles, and discusses use of "The", "A", and "An" at the start of an article title. There are some situations where they are warranted, but many where they are not. When used inappropriately, they violate common usage, only serving as noise words. More importantly, this can cause problems with the length of the name, the quick search function, and sorting. Due to these problems, the default rule is to exclude them unless certain specific conditions are met, usually where they are integral to the article subject's name.
Convention: In general, a definite ("the") or indefinite ("a" or "an") article should be included at the beginning of the title of a Wikipedia article only if at least one of the following conditions is met:
- If a term with a definite article has a different meaning with respect to the same term without the article, the term with the article can be used as the name of a Wikipedia article about that meaning, and the term without the article can be used as the name of a separate Wikipedia article.
- If the definite or indefinite article would be capitalized in running text, then include it at the beginning of the Wikipedia article name. Otherwise, do not (except in the case of musical groups; see below).
- For example, The Old Man and the Sea includes the article "The" because sentences such as "Ernest Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea in 1951" are written with a capitalized "The".
- On the contrary, United States does not include the article "The", because sentences such as "California is part of the United States" are written with a lowercase "the".
These conditions are sometimes met if the Wikipedia article name is:
- the title of a work or publication (e.g., The Old Man and the Sea, or The New York Times), or
- the official or commonly used name or nickname of a group, sports team or company (e.g., The Beatles, "The Invincibles", The Hershey Company), or
- another official or commonly used proper name (e.g., The Hague, The Crown).
Not all of the Wikipedia article names which belong to these categories meet the above-listed conditions. For instance, Mona Lisa is the name of a work of art, and Eurythmics is the name of a musical band, but neither includes a definite or indefinite article.
When definite and indefinite articles should be used
Titles of works and publications
The definite or indefinite article is sometimes included in the official title of literary works as well as other kinds of fiction and non-fiction publications and works such as newspapers, films and visual artworks. In this case, the article should be included in the name of the corresponding Wikipedia article as well. For example,
- A Clockwork Orange (film)
- "The Lady, or the Tiger?" (short story)
- The New York Times (newspaper)
- The Old Man and the Sea (novel)
This does not apply if the definite or indefinite article is not a part of the official title of the work or publication. Thus, Mona Lisa is preferred to The Mona Lisa. Particular usages for the titles of visual artworks are described in the Art Manual of Style.
Whether an article is actually part of the title of a work can be a bit hard to distinguish when translation is involved. For example:
- The Rite of Spring – In Russian, the native language of the work's composer, the title is without a definite article (and standard Russian has no definite article); in French, since the first public performance of the work, it has always been Le Sacre du printemps (with the definite article).
- The Scream – Original Norwegian without article (Skrik).
- For most of the works of Alexandre Dumas père, the article is used the same way in the original French and in the English translations of the titles (for example, The Three Musketeers), except one: La Reine Margot, with a definite article, is usually translated as Queen Margot ("The Queen Margot" would sound rather like a ship's name).
Whether a definite or indefinite article is used in English also depends on differing sensibilities in different languages. There are several languages (like Latin) that do not have a definite article, giving no guidance whether an article would be part of a title. This often leads to alternative translations, with some translators using a definite article for the English version of the title and others not. The rule of thumb regarding these translated titles of works is this: if there is the least bit of ambiguity whether the article is always used in a translation of the title, it is preferred not to start the Wikipedia article name with an article. For example,
- Histories (Tacitus) is preferred over The Histories (Tacitus)
- Journey to the West is preferred over The Journey to the West
For newspapers, the general rule is to follow the name of the publication as it actually appears on the masthead. For instance, Canada's two major national newspapers are titled The Globe and Mail (with The) and National Post (without The); an article about a newspaper should never be titled with The if it is not present in the masthead.
Names of groups, sports teams and companies
When a proper name is almost always used with "The", especially if it is included by unaffiliated sources, the article "The" should be used in the name of the corresponding Wikipedia article as well. For instance, this is true for the names of some musical groups:
This only applies if the definite article is used by the band on their musical publications (CDs, audiotapes, records, etc.) or on their official website. Conversely, some bands do not have the in their names, even though they may sometimes (or even often) be referred to as "the (Name)" in everyday speech:
In all cases, default the article title to the form of the name that is used by the band themselves, and use "(band)" to disambiguate if necessary. If a band is officially known without a definite article, but the members typically refer to their group as "the (Name)" in everyday speech, then the definite article should be included in running prose.
This also extends to some non-musical groups, and even beyond "official" naming, for example the Invincibles (which is the nickname of several sports teams). (See MOS:THECAPS for use of "The" and "the" in running prose.)
Sometimes, the article "The" is also used at the beginning of the names of companies. For instance:
Other proper names
Besides the above-mentioned cases, "The" is sometimes used at the beginning of some other proper names:
- The two Commonwealth countries that have "The" as part of their common and official name:
- The Bahamas – an island nation in the West Indies in the Atlantic Ocean, near the U.S. state of Florida
- The Gambia – a small country in West Africa
- The Bronx – one of the boroughs of New York City
- The Hague – a city in the Netherlands
- The Citadel – the common name of a military college in South Carolina
- The Crown – often used in court case citations and legal documentation in Commonwealth realms as well as in the United Kingdom to describe the institutional relationship of the reigning monarch towards various institutions, such as courts and governmental bodies
- The National Archives of the United Kingdom – it is typically referred to with the definite article, and abbreviated as TNA
- The Nature Conservancy – similarly as with the National Archives – e.g. its abbreviation is TNC
- The Needles – the common name for a row of stacks of chalk to the west of the Isle of Wight – and without the definite article, "Needles" would be ambiguous
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (for which the word "the" should not be capitalized in the middle of sentences)[a]
When definite and indefinite articles should be avoided
A definite article should be applied only if The is used in running text throughout university materials and if that usage has caught on elsewhere. Otherwise, do not use the definite article for universities. This guideline is a weak version of the most-common-name rule.
Most universities do not have a definite article in their names. This includes institutions whose websites might suggest otherwise; for example:
- University of Arizona 
- University of Chicago 
- University of Oklahoma 
- University of New Mexico 
- University of Sheffield 
- University of Sydney 
The preceding websites include title phrases "The University of X", but in running text, they refer to themselves as "the University of X". According to the rule of thumb, "The" is not considered to be a part of their name, so the Wikipedia article is named "University of X".
On the other hand, some universities only refer to themselves as "The University of X", even in running text (e.g. The College of New Jersey). If such usage is prevalent on university press releases and press kits, contact information, "about" pages, and internal department websites, and it is reasonably common in external sources (try a Google search), then it is more appropriate to name the Wikipedia article "The University of X".
Finally, if common usage has overwhelmingly rejected the The, then it should be omitted regardless of university usage, e.g. Ohio State University.
Definite and indefinite articles should generally be avoided in cases not mentioned above. For example,
- Apple, not An apple
- Cultural Revolution, not The Cultural Revolution
- Dog, not A dog
- Earth, not The Earth
- Eiffel Tower, not The Eiffel Tower
- Joker (comics), not The Joker
- Middle East, not The Middle East
- Netherlands, not The Netherlands
- RMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Queen Elizabeth, etc., not The Queen Elizabeth (see Wikipedia:Naming conventions (ships))
- Renaissance, not The Renaissance
- Roman Catholic Church, not The Roman Catholic Church
- Sudan, not The Sudan
- Ukraine, not The Ukraine
- United Kingdom, not The United Kingdom
- United States, not The United States
- White House, not The White House
However, it can be used in cases of prevailing common use. For example:
- The Edge (stage name of David Howell Evans in the rock band U2)
- The Notorious B.I.G. (stage name of Christopher George Latore Wallace)
- The Doctor (Doctor Who) (fictional character)
- ^ See this RfC discussion, MOS:THEINST and MOS:LDS.