Using Capital vs Capitol

Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
Capital and capitol are probably two of the most easily confused words in English. They can sometimes mean similar things and sometimes mean very different things. In this lesson, you will learn the difference and when to use them correctly.

Ancient Cities and Modern Buildings

Ancient cultures created the concept of a capital city. From the amazing garden city of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztecs, to Lothlórien, the imaginary city that is the capital of the elves standing against the evil Sauron, capital is usually a city. This city is the political, cultural, economic or religious center of a state, nation, country or empire.

The United States went a bit further and created the idea of a Capitol building, the large, domed building housing Congress, in its capital city, Washington, DC.

Pronounced the exact same way, capital can function as a noun, usually meaning a city, money, or a letter. As an adjective, capital means the primary, money, or the death penalty. Capitol as a noun nearly always refer to a government building.


Capital As A Noun

Capital is a noun that can means several things. A capital can be the political or cultural center of a country or a state. Capital can also mean money, investment or property. A capital can also refer to a capital, or uppercase, letter, like A, B, C, D, E, F, G, etc.

  • Although many people think Rio de Janeiro is the capital, the capital of Brazil is Brasilia. (center of political power in Brazil)
  • Bismarck is the capital of North Dakota. (center of political power in North Dakota)
  • Although not the official capital of the European Union, Brussels, Belgium is the center of most of the European Union's political and economic structures. (home of the institutions of the European Union)
  • The business is looking for investment capital to expand production. (finance or money)
  • After acquiring huge fortunes, many business leaders like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are donating most of their capital to charity projects. (money)
  • In English, sentences start with a capital letter. (the uppercase form of a letter; nearly always this is said as capital letter but capital is also acceptable)

Gold is used as capital in much of the world.

Capital As An Adjective

When capital is functioning as an adjective, it means principal (the main part of something), something financial, or the death penalty.

  • The Smith Fund is the capital investor in the new project. (the principal investor)
  • The bank did not have enough capital funding to stay in business. (financial backing)
  • Most countries have abolished capital punishment. (the death penalty)


Capitol As A Noun

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