Capital or Capitol?

by Craig Shrives

What Is 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?

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.


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


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. correct tick
  • (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? correct tick
(3) An uppercase letter.

For example:
  • "A," "B," and "C" are capital letters, but "a," "b," and "c" are lowercase letters. correct tick
  • (Here, "capital" is an adjective.)
  • In German, every noun starts with a capital. correct tick
  • (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. correct tick
  • (Here, "capital" is an adjective.)
(5) First rate or excellent.

For example:
  • That was a capital speech you made, old chap. correct tick
  • (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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