Capital vs. Capitol | Definition, Difference & Examples

Capital and capitol are pronounced the same but have different meanings.

  • Capital is the more common word, with a wider range of meanings. It can be used as a noun to refer to financial assets, to a city serving as the official seat of government, or to an uppercase letter. It can also be used as an adjective to mean “vital,” “excellent,” or “punishable by death.”
  • Capitol is a noun that refers to the building in which the legislative government meets.
Examples: Capital in a sentence Examples: Capitol in a sentence
Springfield is the capital city of Illinois. The United States Capitol is the meeting place of congress.
Thanks to investors, the business has a lot of capital. The state capitol of Utah is located on North State Street, in Salt Lake City.

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Capital as a noun

Capital can be used as a noun to refer to money or other financial assets. It’s often used in business contexts to refer to money that’s available for investment.

Example: Capital to mean assets
Without extra capital, the hotel cannot be renovated.

Capital can be used to refer to a town or city serving as the seat of a national or regional government. “Capital city,” in which capital functions as an adjective, has the same meaning.

Example: Capital to refer to a city
At different points in history, Moscow and St. Petersburg have each been the capital of Russia.

Capital can also be used to refer to an uppercase (capitalized) letter: usually the first letter of a sentence or of a proper noun. You can also write “capital letter,” with the same meaning.

Example: Capital to refer to a letter
The days of the week should begin with a capital (e.g., “Monday”).

Capital as an adjective

Capital can be used as an adjective to mean “principal” or “vital.” It can also be used to mean “excellent.” However, this is somewhat old-fashioned.

Examples: Capital to mean main or excellent
Affordable housing is an issue of capital importance to many young voters.

Laurence thought that throwing a party was a capital idea.

Capital can also be used to refer to an offense that is punishable by death, and to a death sentence.

Example: Capital to refer to a death sentence
As Jonathon had committed a capital offense, he expected capital punishment.

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Capitol is a noun

Capitol is a noun that refers to the building in which the functions of a legislative government are carried out. When referring to the name of a specific building (usually the United States Capitol), it begins with an uppercase letter.

Example: Capitol in a sentence
The class went on a school trip to see the US Capitol and learn about congressional procedures.

Worksheet: Capitol vs. capital

You can test your knowledge of the difference between “capital” and “capitol” with the worksheet below. Fill in “capital” or “capitol” in each sentence.

  1. The company is not bankrupt. It has millions of dollars’ worth of _______.
  2. The months of the year begin with _______ letters.
  3. Recovering the stolen art is of _______ importance.
  4. Kate built a scale model of the _______ Building for a school project.
  5. As the _______ city of the United States, Washington, D.C., also houses the nation’s _______.
  1. The company is not bankrupt. It has millions of dollars’ worth of capital.
    • “Capital” can be used as a noun to refer to financial assets.
  1. The months of the year begin with capital letters.
    • “Capital” can be used to refer to an uppercase letter.
  1. Recovering the stolen art is of capital importance.
    • “Capital” can be used as an adjective to mean “main” or “extreme.”
  1. Kate built a scale model of the Capitol Building for a school project.
    • “Capitol” is a noun that refers to the building in which the functions of a legislative government are carried out. As a proper noun, “Capitol Building” is capitalized.
  1. As the capital city of the United States, Washington, D.C., also houses the nation’s capitol.
    • In the first instance, “capital” is used to refer to a city that is the seat of government. In the second instance, “capitol” is used to refer to the building in which the legislative government meets.

    Other interesting language articles

    If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

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    Eoghan Ryan

    Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.