1

capital

noun cap·i·tal \ ˈka-pə-tᵊl , ˈkap-tᵊl \
Updated on: 13 Oct 2017

Definition of capital

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

Examples of capital in a Sentence

  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 WillsNew York Review of Books31 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'RourkeAtlanticSeptember 2002

capital and capitol: Which One to Use Where

What a pair these are: they sound identical and look nearly identical and both have meanings that relate to government. Mastering their use, however, is simple.

The key is this: capitol, the one with an "o," is very limited in use. It appears in the term Capitol Hill, and is used to refer to one very particular and famous building, to some other similar buildings, and, occasionally, to a group of buildings that includes those similar buildings. For all other meanings, the word you want is capital.

This means that in a state's capital city is a building or group of buildings properly referred to with the word capitol, with an "o." In this use capitol is synonymous with statehouse: both refer to the building or group of buildings where a state legislature meets. The phrase capital city utilizes capital because it refers to a city, not to a building or group of buildings.

Capitol with a capital "C" refers to the particular building in Washington, D.C. where the U.S. Congress meets. It often appears before other nouns in phrases like the Capitol building and Capitol police, and is very frequently used in the term Capitol Hill, which refers both to the legislative branch of the United States government as well as to the location of the Capitol building. The Capitol, like many state capitol buildings, has a rounded dome that is somewhat reminiscent of the top of an "o," which may help some remember the "o" spelling. Note that the word capital as used to describe an uppercase letter, like in the phrase capital "C", utilizes capital.

The word capital has three distinct homographs, two for noun uses and one for adjective uses. Readers should consult those entries for the various meanings of capital, but can be assured that they all end in al, rather than ol.

Origin and Etymology 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

Other Architecture Terms


2

capital

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

Definition of capital

1 of a letter :of or conforming to the series A, B, C, etc. rather than a, b, c, etc.
2 a :punishable by death
  • a capital crime
b :involving execution
  • capital punishment
c :most serious
  • a capital error
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
  • London is the capital city of England.
4 :of or relating to capital; especially :relating to or being assets that add to the long-term net worth of a corporation
  • capital improvements
5 :excellent
  • a capital book
with a capital
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 in a Sentence

  1. In several district capital towns I visited, the most obvious result of increased local autonomy was a showy new government office complex … —Mel WhiteNational GeographicNovember 2008
  2. In a nearby deli, the specials board announces in desperately bold capital letters, "WILL TRADE FOOD FOR SOX/PATS TICKETS"! —Julia GlassGourmetFebruary 2007
  3. Few competent local lawyers are willing to take on capital defendants for $20 an hour … —Jeffrey RosenNew Republic4 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 and Etymology of capital

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

Other Alphabet Terms


3

capital

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

Definition of capital

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
  • set capital and land and labor to work
  • —G. B. Shaw
b (1) :net worth :excess of assets over liabilities
(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
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
a :a city serving as a seat of government
b :a city preeminent in some special activity
  • the fashion capital

Examples of capital in a Sentence

  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 WhiteNew York Review of Books12 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 OlsonNew York Times30 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 ConantTuxedo Park2002
  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 LeeNew Yorker6 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 SmithThe No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency1998
  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 BarichNew Yorker7 May 1990

Origin and Etymology of capital

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


Financial Definition of CAPITAL

capital

What It Is

Capital is anything used to generate income.

How It Works

Let's say Company XYZ has $1 million of cash, a widget-making machine and a fleet of delivery vehicles. These items generate income: The cash earns interest, the widget-making machine makes widgets that have a 10% profit margin, and the delivery vehicles support the operation.

In the economic sense, capital comes in many forms: currency, equipment, land or even people.

Why It Matters

Capital makes the business world go 'round because it reflects and determines what is bought and sold in an economy. In the economics world, centuries of debate have existed over who should control a nation's capital, who is oppressed by those who have more capital than others, and how capital should be distributed.



CAPITAL Defined for English Language Learners

capital

adjective

Definition of capital for English Language Learners

  • 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


CAPITAL Defined for Kids

1

capital

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

Definition of capital for Students

1 :being like the letters A, B, C, etc. rather than a, b, c, etc.
2 :being the location of a government
  • Columbus is the capital city of Ohio.
3 :punishable by or resulting in death
  • a capital crime
  • capital punishment
4 :of or relating to accumulated wealth
5 :excellent
  • a capital idea

2

capital

noun

Definition of capital for Students

:
1 :a capital letter
  • Begin each sentence with a capital.
2 :a capital city
  • Name the capital of North Dakota.
3 :the money and property that a person owns
4 :profitable use
  • They made capital out of my weakness.

Word Root of capital

The Latin word caput, meaning “head," gives us the root capit, which is sometimes shortened to capt. Words from the Latin caput have something to do with the head or a place where decisions are made. The capital of a state or country is the city where the government is and where decisions are made about laws. A captain is the person who heads a group and leads his members. To decapitate is to cut off someone's head.


3

capital

noun

Definition of capital for Students

:the top part of an architectural column

Law Dictionary

1

capital

adjective cap·i·tal

legal Definition of capital

1 a :punishable by death
  • capital murder
b :involving execution
  • a capital case
2
[Medieval Latin capitalis chief, principal, from Latin caput head]
:being the seat of government
  • the capital city
3 :of or relating to capital; especially :of or relating to capital assets
  • a capital account
  • whether the gain is capital or ordinary

Origin and Etymology of capital

Latin capitalis, from caput head, a person's life (as forfeit)


2

capital

noun

legal Definition of capital

1 :accumulated assets (as money) invested or available for investment: as
a :goods (as equipment) used to produce other goods
b :property (as stocks) used to create income — see also capital stock at stock
debt capital
:capital that is raised by borrowing (as by issuing bonds or securing loans)
equity capital
:capital (as retained earnings) that is free of debt; especially :paid-in capital in this entry
fixed capital
:capital that is invested on a long-term basis; especially :capital that is invested in fixed assets
legal capital
:stated capital in this entry
moneyed capital
:capital that consists of or represents money that is used or invested (as by a bank or investment company) for the purpose of making a profit on it as money — see also moneyed corporation at corporation
paid-in capital
:equity capital that is received in exchange for an interest (as shares of stock) in the ownership of a business
risk capital
:venture capital in this entry
stated capital
:the total par value or stated value of no par issues of outstanding capital stock called also legal capital
venture capital
:the initial usually paid-in capital of a new enterprise involving risk but offering potential above-average profits called also risk capital
working capital
:the capital available for use in the course of business activity:
a :current assets less current liabilities
b :all capital of a business except the fixed capital
3 :a city serving as a seat of government
  • the state capital


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up capital? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

pleasing or sweet sound

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Forms of Government Quiz

  • knupfer-painting-solon-before-croesus
  • A gerontocracy is rule by:
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!