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Capital vs. Capitol – How to Pick the Correct Word

Capital vs. Capitol – How to Pick the Correct Word

Out loud, you can get away with some uncertainty when using these two words, since they have identical pronunciations. However, we don’t have that luxury when writing, so it’s important to use the correct spelling.

Differences in Usage: Capital vs. Capitol

This post compares capital and capitol. I will outline each word’s definition and provide a bit of context for it with example sentences.

Then I’ll leave you with a memory trick that you can use in the future to determine whether your sentence calls for capitol or capital.

What Does Capital Mean?

Meaning of Capital: Capital has five primary meanings. One of them is similar to the meaning of capitol,so I will cover that one last. That way, you can see why these words are similar, yet be confident in your knowledge of the difference.

Capital – alphabet. Capital refers to uppercase letters, as in ABC, as opposed to lowercase letters, as in abc.

  • “You’re in Trouble missy, and that’s trouble with a capital ‘T!’”
  • “There’s no need to text in all capitals; it looks like you’re shouting.”

Capital – finance. Capital has a financial meaning of all the positive assets in a corporation, such as means of production and operation. It also refers to investments, which are then used to purchase such assets.

  • “We need new financial backers to invest capital in our company so that we can

expand our production.”

  • “With all this new equipment, our business has doubled in capital since last year!”

Capital – grave, severe. Capital is used to indicate extreme seriousness, to the point that it also means “involving death.” A “capital crime” results in “capital punishment;” it is one that warrants the death sentence.

  • “Many consider treason a capital crime.”
  • “Should we do away with capital punishment?”

Capital – excellent. Capital can also mean very good, although this meaning is more common in British English and even there, it is considered dated.

  • “A capital idea, old chap!”
  • “You’re a capital fellow.”

Capital – government. Lastly, capital refers to a seat of government, specifically to the capital city of a designation region.

  • “Salem is the capital of Oregon.”
  • “We took a road trip to visit the capital cities of all 50 states!”

Most states, provinces, and countries have a capital city where the government meets to conduct business. These cities are what they call “seats of government” because, in a sense, the government is “headquartered” in these cities.

Inside each of these cities, there is a capitol building. Notice the difference in spelling.

What Does Capitol Mean?

Meaning of Capitol: Capitol has one very specific government-related meaning: it is a noun that refers specifically to a capitol building, or sometimes group of buildings.

It should be capitalized when writing about a specific capitol, such as the California State Capitol. Capitol should begin with a lowercase “c” when used to refer to capitols in general.

In the U.S., capitol is frequently used in the phrase “Capitol Hill,” meaning both the literal location of the building and the synecdoche for the legislative branch.

  • “The legislators rushed to the Capitol for an emergency meeting.”
  • “It’s time those folks up on Capitol Hill started taking some action!”

Capitol Hill should always be capitalized.

Capitol vs. Capital: How to Remember the Difference

Capitohas Only One meaning. If you are using that One specific meaning about a capitol building, you will need capitol with an O.

If not, you want capitawith an A for All the other meanings.

Recap: When to Use Capital and Capitol

Capital has several meanings, which relate to the alphabet, finances, capital punishment, and excellence. Capital also means the seat of government, and the physical location of a capital city. 

Capitol has a governmental meaning, too, one which refers only to the capitol building (located inside the capital city).