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noun cap·i·tal \ˈka-pə-təl, ˈkap-təl\

Definition of capital

  1. :  the uppermost member of a column or pilaster crowning the shaft and taking the weight of the entablature — see column illustration

Examples of capital

  1. The transition from Greece to Rome is marked, in a propylaeum space, by a huge Ionic column's base and capital, with a space between the broad part of the column below and the narrowing segment above. —Garry Wills, New York Review of Books, 31 May 2007

  2. According to the scrapbooks of nineteenth-century tourists, there's room for a hundred men to stand on the capital of one of these columns. That was the kind of culturally insensitive thing tourists used to do. —P. J. O'Rourke, Atlantic, September 2002

Origin of capital

Middle English capitale, from Anglo-French capital, capitel, from Late Latin capitellum small head, top of column, diminutive of Latin capit-, caput head — more at head

First Known Use: 13th century

Other Architecture Terms



adjective cap·i·tal \ˈka-pə-təl, ˈkap-təl\

Simple Definition of capital

  • of a letter : in the form A, B, C, etc., rather than a, b, c

  • : having the main offices of a government

  • of a crime : having death as a possible punishment

Full Definition of capital

  1. 1 of a letter :  of or conforming to the series A, B, C, etc. rather than a, b, c, etc.

  2. 2 a :  punishable by death <a capital crime> b :  involving execution <capital punishment> c :  most serious <a capital error>

  3. 3 a :  chief in importance or influence <capital ships> <the capital importance of criticism in the work of creation itself — T. S. Eliot> b :  being the seat of government

  4. 4 :  of or relating to capital (see 3capital); especially :  relating to or being assets that add to the long-term net worth of a corporation <capital improvements>

  5. 5 :  excellent <a capital book>

with a capital
  1. —used with a following capital letter to emphasize or qualify a preceding word <not an accident but murder with a capital M> <desired romance with a capital R>

Examples of capital

  1. In several district capital towns I visited, the most obvious result of increased local autonomy was a showy new government office complex … —Mel White, National Geographic, November 2008

  2. In a nearby deli, the specials board announces in desperately bold capital letters, “WILL TRADE FOOD FOR SOX/PATS TICKETS”! —Julia Glass, Gourmet, February 2007

  3. Few competent local lawyers are willing to take on capital defendants for $20 an hour … —Jeffrey Rosen, New Republic, 4 Oct. 1993

  4. His handwritten capital S's look a lot like lowercase s's.

  5. Homicide that occurs during the course of an attempted kidnapping is a capital crime in some states.

Origin of capital

Middle English, from Latin capitalis, from capit-, caput (see 1capital)

First Known Use: 14th century

Other Alphabet Terms



noun cap·i·tal \ˈka-pə-təl, ˈkap-təl\

Definition of capital

  1. 1 a (1) :  a stock of accumulated goods especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period; also :  the value of these accumulated goods (2) :  accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) :  accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income b (1) :  net worth (2) :  stock 7c(1) c :  persons holding capital :  capitalists considered as a group d :  advantage, gain <make capital of the situation> e :  a store of useful assets or advantages <wasted their political capital on an unpopular cause> <wrote from the capital of his emotionally desolate boyhood — E. L. Doctorow>

  2. 2 [2capital] a :  a letter that conforms to the series A, B, C, etc. rather than a, b, c, etc. :  a capital letter; especially :  an initial capital letter b :  a letter belonging to a style of alphabet modeled on the style customarily used in inscriptions

  3. 3 [2capital] a :  a city serving as a seat of government b :  a city preeminent in some special activity <the fashion capital>

Examples of capital

  1. … he must have poured a lot of energy into observing the men and women around him, since they would provide the literary capital he would draw on for many years to come in three major books. —Edmund White, New York Review of Books, 12 Feb. 2009

  2. Myrtle Beach claims to be the nation's golf capital, and given its 123 golf courses, it is hard to dispute the title. —Elizabeth Olson, New York Times, 30 Sept. 2003

  3. The two brothers-in-law pooled their resources and scrounged capital from relatives. Thorne asked several family members, including his father, to back them, but only his uncle, Samuel Thorne, came through with the money. —Jennet Conant, Tuxedo Park, 2002

  4. Anna is no bumpkin: she and her sisters have been dragged thriftily around the capitals of Europe by their parents, a pair of academics who have always displayed the proper American reverence for garlic and old stones, and occasionally even sprung for a fancy meal. —Andrea Lee, New Yorker, 6 May 2002

  5. This was the incident book, and there, sure enough, was the entry detailing Moretsi's injury, the words spelled out in capitals in a barely literate hand … —Alexander McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, 1998

  6. In a sense, such stories are his capital, and if he's lucky he may be able to parlay them into a business opportunity … —Bill Barich, New Yorker, 7 May 1990

Origin of capital

French or Italian; French, from Italian capitale, from capitale, adjective, chief, principal, from Latin capitalis (see 2capital)

First Known Use: circa 1639

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February 9, 2016

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