Capital and Capitol are one of the most frequently confused pairs of words since the distinction between the two is subtle and the words are used infrequently unless you work in finance or in the government.
Capital and Capitol are an example of homophones, words that sound the same, but have different meanings and spellings.
Etymology of Capital and Capitol
Let us take a close look at the words “Capital” and “Capitol”. The words “Capital” and “Capitol” both are derived from the Latin word “caput” which means “head”.
“Capital” was derived from the words “capitalis” and “capit’le” which means “of the head” and “wealth” respectively. “Capitol” was derived from the word “Capitōlium”, the well-known temple of the gods in Greek history that was located on top of Capitoline Hill.
Meaning of Capital
The word “capital” can mean the capital of a city, the resources (both human and financial) of a business, or the uppercase letters in a word.
Examples of the correct use of “Capital”:
1. Meaning – Capital city:
In 1853, Olympia became Washington’s capital city.
2. Meaning – Alphabet in capital/uppercase letters
The name “Bill” begins with the capital letter “B”.
3. Meaning – Capital of a business
The startup raised successfully a capital of $1 million in the first quarter itself.
4. Meaning – Extremely important
Finding a solution to the sudden outburst of the people was of capital concern.
Meaning of Capitol
In the U.S., “Capitol” is the name of a popular government building where the U.S. Senate and members of the congress are housed. The word “Capitol” with a capital “C” is used to address the U.S. Capitol building.
Examples of the correct use of “Capitol”:
1. The United States Congress work in the United States Capitol building in Washington.
2. The discussion was to take place at the Capitol building today.
Now you know why understanding capital vs. capitol is important. The words mean completely different things and you cannot use the incorrect spelling unless you wish to confuse someone.