Capital vs Capitol: Simple Tips to Know the Difference

It can be challenging to know when to use capital vs. capitol. These two words are often confused for one another in writing, leading to incorrect language usage. Discover the difference between capital and capitol so you can make the correct choice the next time you need to use one (or both!) of these terms in your writing.

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Capital vs. Capitol: Meaning and Usage Differences

The word capital has several meanings, while capitol has only one.

Capitol Meaning

The word capitol is the term for a building in which the legislative body of a government holds official meetings.

  • The Alabama legislature meets in the state's capitol building.
  • The United States (U.S.) Senate and House of Representatives convene in the U.S. capitol building.
  • The area surrounding the U.S. Capitol is referred to as Capitol Hill because the phrase is referring to the actual building.

Note that "capitol" refers to the building itself, not the city where the building is located.

Capital Meanings

The word capital can be used in several contexts, specifically cities, letters of the alphabet and money or assets.

  • capital cities - The cities where state and federal governments are headquartered are referred to as capital cities. (Montgomery is the capital of Alabama. Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States of America.)
  • capital letters - Letters written in uppercase form are capital letters. (Sentences begin with capital letters, as do proper nouns such as a person's name or the months of the year).
  • capital as money - Money or assets that a person or business owns or has access to use. (Before starting a business, the firm's owners will need to have or raise sufficient capital.)

Examples of Capitol and Capital in a Sentence

Seeing examples of the words capital and capitol in sentences can help clarify how the words can be correctly used.

Correct Examples of Capitol in a Sentence

Review some examples of sentences in which the word capitol is correctly used.

  • As a legislative aide, Sue worked in the U.S. Capitol building.
  • We want to be close to the action when we visit D.C., so we're planning to stay at a hotel in the Capitol Hill district.
  • If you want to visit the U.S. Capitol, it is best to make a reservation in advance.
  • The West Virginia State Capitol building and complex is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Correct Examples of Capital in a Sentence

Peruse some sentences that properly use the term capital.

  • Atlanta is the capital of the state of Georgia.
  • Be sure to use capital letters when writing referencing the name of a corporation.
  • I want to open my own salon, but I don't currently have the capital I need to get started.
  • I am looking forward to visiting Nashville, which is the capital of Tennessee.

Correct Examples of Sentences Using Both Terms

For further clarity, consider examples where both capitol and capital need to be used.

  • The governor is seeking to raise capital to fund a major renovation project on the state capitol.
  • The eighth grade students traveled to their state's capital where they toured the capitol building and met with legislators.
  • My family is planning a trip to the nation's capital this summer. While there, we expect to tour the U.S. Capitol and meet with our congressional representative.
  • Be sure to properly use capital letters when addressing a letter to the governor, which will need to be sent to the state's capitol building.

Choosing the Correct Term: Capital vs. Capitol

When you're writing and find yourself struggling to choose between capital vs capitol, just ask yourself one question. Are you are referring to the building where a state or federal government conducts business? If the answer is yes, then use capitol. If not, use the word capital. As confusing as the choice may seem, it really is as simple as that.


Expand Related Language Usage Skills

Now that you're clear on the difference between capital and capitol and know when to use each, it's a good time to make sure that you know how to correctly use related terminology and skills. Start by exploring common title capitalization rules. Make sure you know how to properly capitalize states. You may also want to explore some interesting facts about state capitals.