Capital vs. Capitol: What’s the Difference?

So, this weekend I am taking a trip to the capital. Or is it capitol? Which is it, capital or capitol?

Well, that would depend on what you mean. Capital and capitol are a set of English homophones. Homophones are words that sound the same when spoken but have different meanings and different spellings. That is what makes them so difficult to tell apart. They sound the same when you are speaking them each and every day, but when you go to write them on a page, you forget just how they are spelled.

What is the Difference Between Capital and Capitol?

Don’t worry. In this post, I will summarize the difference between capital vs. capitol. I will go over their definitions and their functions within a sentence. I will use example sentences so you can see exactly how they are used. Plus, at the end, I will give you a trick to remember the difference.

When to Use Capital

capital versus capitol worksheetsWhat does capital mean? Capital has a few different meanings.

It can be used in a financial sense to describe money, equipment, or property that is used in a business.

It can sometimes be used figuratively to describe a valuable resource such as “human capital.” It can also refer to a type of letter, a capital or lowercase letter.

But, the definition most relevant to this discussion is capital in the sense of a governmental seat.

Capital, in this sense, refers to the most important city or town in a region, state, country, etc., and it generally refers to the seat of a government or administration center.

For example,

  • Lansing is the capital of Michigan.
  • Washington, D.C. is the capital of the United States.

But capital can also be used to refer to cities of specific importance besides government. For example,

  • Detroit is the automotive capital of the world.
  • Hollywood is the capital of show business.

When to Use Capitol

capitol versus capital definitonWhat does capitol mean? A capitol is a building or set of buildings in which a state legislature meets. It can also refer to the U.S. Capitol building.

For example,

  • The Massachusetts state legislature began its 2013 session in the Capitol today.
  • The hearing was held on Capitol Hill in the north wing of the Capitol building.

Capitol should be capitalized when you are referring to the specific building in Washington or specific state capitol buildings. For example,

  • Thomas Jefferson designed the Capitol of Virginia.
  • The Michigan Capitol is in Lansing.

But,

  • Most capitol buildings have offices for legislators.

In this sentence, I am not referring to a specific state capitol building, so I do not capitalize “capitol” in this sentence.

Remember the Difference

A good trick to remember the difference between capital and capitol is that capitol has an “O” in it. Many capitol buildings have circular domes in the shape of an “O.”

Summary

Is it capitol or capital? This, of course, depends on the subject.

  • Capital is the most important city in an area, region, country, etc., and generally refers to a governmental seat.
  • Capitol is building where legislators meet and have session.
  • You can keep track of capitol vs. capital by visualizing the “O” in capitol as the top of a capitol buildings’ dome.

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