cap·​i·​tol | \ ˈka-pə-tᵊl How to pronounce capitol (audio) , ˈkap-tᵊl \

Definition of capitol

1a : a building in which a state legislative body meets the dome of the state capitol
b : a group of buildings in which the functions of state government are carried out
2 capitalized : the building in which the U.S. Congress meets at Washington

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Synonyms for capitol


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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.

Examples of capitol in a Sentence

the dome of the state capitol the legislators were called to the capitol for an emergency session
Recent Examples on the Web The capitol police shot pepper spray from inside the building to prevent the group from entering, police said. WSJ, "Race and Policing: Continuing Coverage," 24 June 2020 In North Carolina, the removal of Confederate statues outside the state capitol building in Raleigh has the Sons of Confederate Veterans contemplating legal action. al, "Mobile rebuffs Confederate heirs; opts to place monument in history museum," 23 June 2020 On Monday morning, a crowd of roughly 1,000 people was demonstrating outside the state capitol. Robert Klemko,, "Family members decry police killing of Rayshard Brooks, call for reform," 15 June 2020 Just before arriving in Alabama’s capitol, the marchers stopped to plant a flag along the road, a stake in the heart of inequality. Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, "On July 4th, remember the American flag belongs to us all," 3 July 2020 On Thursday, dozens of coaches from college around the state — including Ole Miss football coach Lane Kiffin and Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach — traveled to the capitol in Jackson to lobby lawmakers to change the flag. Creg Stephenson |, al, "Greg Sankey, Kylin Hill, others react to Mississippi flag change," 29 June 2020 Several protesters also allegedly beat a Democratic state senator who was filming the protests while heading into the capitol building. Fox News, "Wisconsin violence erupted over arrest of activist with felony conviction, history of controversial social media posts," 26 June 2020 For instance, the Calhoun State Office Building sits in the capitol complex in Columbia, South Carolina’s state capital city. Christian K. Anderson, The Conversation, "Authorities are yanking the legacy of slaveholder John C. Calhoun from public sphere, but his bigotry remains embedded in American society," 26 June 2020 The rally was organized in the state capitol to call attention to Daniel Cameron, Kentucky’s first Black attorney general, whose office is reviewing the police investigation of the three officers. Washington Post, "Kentucky capitol rally urges action in Breonna Taylor death," 25 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'capitol.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of capitol

1679, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for capitol

Latin Capitolium, temple of Jupiter at Rome on the Capitoline hill

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Time Traveler for capitol

Time Traveler

The first known use of capitol was in 1679

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Statistics for capitol

Last Updated

24 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Capitol.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Aug. 2020.

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How to pronounce capitol (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of capitol

: the building in which the people who make the laws of a U.S. state meet
: the building in which the U.S. Congress meets in Washington, D.C.


cap·​i·​tol | \ ˈka-pə-tᵊl How to pronounce capitol (audio) , ˈkap-tᵊl \

Kids Definition of capitol

1 : the building in which a state legislature meets
2 capitalized : the building in Washington, D.C., in which the United States Congress meets

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More from Merriam-Webster on capitol

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for capitol

Spanish Central: Translation of capitol

Nglish: Translation of capitol for Spanish Speakers

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