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Is It Capitol or Capital? Choose Carefully!

Homophones such as “capitol” and “capital” can be tricky as they have similar spelling, pronunciation, yet different meanings. They can leave writers scratching their heads, trying to figure out which of these variations to use.  Let’s have a closer look at the “capitol or capital conundrum. 

What Does “Capital” Mean? 

In short, a “capital” is the central city of a State/Country and usually houses the main legislative government. For example, the “capital” of Washington is Olympia, and the “capital” of the United States is Washington D.C. 

A picture of a map with a red pin next to Madrin and the caption: "Capital: Center city of state/country

In a different sense, “capital” can also be a financial term that refers to the money and assets an individual or business possesses. It can also be used to describe uppercase letters, like those at the beginning of sentences or in proper nouns. Lastly, “capital” is also used to describe crimes with the highest penalty. For instance: 

  • I learned in geography that Sacramento is the capital of California.
  • Even though we are not taking debt into account, the state requires us to disclose all public and private capital associated with the business. 
  • As the conversation has been brought up across the country, people wonder if life in prison is more human than capital punishment. 
  • Remember, class, we must always start our sentences with a capital letter. 

What Does “Capitol” Mean? 

Capitol” is a term that describes a building that houses the legislative branch of a government. In the American context, it is often presented as capitalized when referring to the “Capitol” Building in Washington, D.C. 

A picture of the capitol building with the explanation: Capitol - A building that houses the legislative branch of government.

As a little mnemonic device, you can remember that “capitol” with an “o” refers to the central building in most cities that usually has a large “dome.” 

A graph that shows the difference between the Capital or Capitol. Capital is a central city of a state/country or money/assets of an individual or an organisation, or available for a purpose of starting a company or investing. Capitol refers to the building that houses the legislative branch of a government

Examples From International Media

Let’s take a look at both words being used in various media outlets.


“Determining where this capital is spent needs to be an important issue for investors, otherwise there is going to be a lot of capital wasted in coming years on developing fossil fuel reserves that cannot be burned”. – The Guardian

“Is this quarter a harbinger of a dramatic turnaround in venture capital investing?” – Forbes Magazine

Next week he intends to lead a kind of Aldermaston-in-Alabama, a 50-mile march to Montgomery, the state’s capital. – The Economist


In the 1930s, Governor Huey Long promised to make “every man a king” (his main legacy is the art-deco capitol building in Baton Rouge; its walls still contain the bullet holes from the volley that killed him). – The Economist

Fifty years later, I can still hear the dirges and muffled drumbeats of the funeral procession from the White House to the Capitol that Sunday afternoon. – Los Angeles Times

Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by armed Capitol Police officers. – The New York Times


Now test yourself with this short quiz.

  1. By High Schools, most students know the names of all the states and most of their capital/capitol cities
  2. The company’s capital/capitol was diminished greatly after the merger.
  3. The capital/capitol of New York State is Albany, on not New York City as some mistakenly believe.
  4. The town’s capital/capitol building was considered a historic landmark.
  5. When we visited Washington D.C., unfortunately the Capitol/Capital Building was under construction.


  1. capital 2. capital 3. capital 4. capitol 5. Capitol
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By Ryan Fisher

Ryan holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and specializes in proofreading, editing, and content writing with an emphasis on business communication.

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