Capital or Capitol?

by Craig Shrives

The Difference between "Capital" and "Capitol"

"Capital" and "capitol" are often confused. This confusion occurs with writers from the US and the UK, but the difference between the two words has nothing to do with US or UK writing conventions.
  • "Capitol" is the building where the US Congress meets.
  • "Capital" means a city serving as a country's seat of government, an amount of money or property, an uppercase letter, main, or excellent.
capital or Capitol?

Ready for the Test?

More about "Capitol" and "Capital"

When some non-Americans see the word "Capitol" in writing, they assume it is a typo of "capital." It isn't.

Capitol

The Capitol is the building that serves as the seat of government for the United States Congress. It is located in Washington on top of Capitol Hill.


The United States Capitol

Capital

The word "capital" has five meanings:

(1) A city that is the seat of the government for a country or a state.

For example:
  • The capital of England is London.
  • (In this meaning, "capital" is a noun.)
(2) An amount of money or property.

For example:
  • Do you have any capital invested in her business?
(3) An uppercase letter.

For example:
  • "A," "B," and "C" are capital letters, but "a," "b," and "c" are lowercase letters.
  • (Here, "capital" is an adjective.)
  • In German, every noun starts with a capital.
  • (In this example, "capital" is a noun.)
(4) Main or principal.

For example:
  • Our capital concern is that everyone gets fed during the electricity failure.
  • (Here, "capital" is an adjective.)
(5) First rate or excellent.

For example:
  • That was a capital speech you made, old chap.
  • (Here, "capital" is an adjective. The use of "capital" meaning "first rate" or "excellent" was common during the 19th century, but it fell sharply during the 20th century. Interestingly though, it appears to be getting more common. [evidence])

Top Tip

Always Use a Capital for "Capitol"
The word "Capitol" is a proper noun (i.e., the name of something). Therefore, it should always be written with a capital "C."

A Video Summary

Watch a video showing 10 big differences between British English and American English.
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See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? pled guilty or pleaded guilty? who's or whose? What are nouns? What are verbs? Glossary of easily confused words Glossary of common errors Glossary of grammatical terms

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