cap·​i·​tol | \ˈka-pə-tᵊl, 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

But 10 years later the North Carolina state capitol goes up in flames; the roof caves in, and Canova’s only American commission crumbles to pieces. Jason Farago, New York Times, "A George Washington Monument, Rediscovered in Fragile Plaster," 27 June 2018 Nick Cavey, a spokesman for the capitol police, said the five were charged with refusal or failure to leave a public building and failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order. Michael Dresser,, "Five arrested at Maryland State House in Poor People's Campaign protest," 4 June 2018 The mayor said the expenditures are coming from the capitol fund. John Benson,, "Brooklyn hoping to keep traffic signals working during power outages," 25 Apr. 2018 Pictured are Dominique Avery, SCTV vice president and volunteer, interviewing Christopher Keating, capitol bureau chief for The Hartford Courant (left); State Sen. Kevin Witkos and State Rep. John Hampton. Courant Community, "Community News For The Valley Edition," 24 Apr. 2018 Hundreds of Arizona teachers also walked out of classrooms last week to confront lawmakers and demand a 20% raise at the state capitol. Grace Donnelly, Fortune, "What You Need to Know about Teachers on Strike in 2018," 3 Apr. 2018 The capitol is home to familiar names like Vogue's August cover star, Saoirse Ronan. Todd Plummer, Vogue, "A Perfect Weekend Away in Dublin," 11 July 2018 There was cheering, dancing, and raucous celebrating that filled the streets of the French capitol for hours. Melissa Locker, Time, "France Goes Wild In the Streets After Their World Cup Win," 11 July 2018 Workers in particular appear more willing to take to the streets and state capitols, including tens of thousands of teachers who walked off their jobs this year in conservative states to protest the underfunding of public education. Noam Scheiber, New York Times, "Labor Unions Will Be Smaller After Supreme Court Decision, but Maybe Not Weaker," 27 June 2018

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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Statistics for capitol

Last Updated

21 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for capitol

The first known use of capitol was in 1679

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English Language Learners Definition of capitol

: the building in which the people who make the laws of a U.S. state meet

the Capitol : the building in which the U.S. Congress meets in Washington, D.C.


cap·​i·​tol | \ˈka-pə-tᵊl, 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

Comments on capitol

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


to express warning or disapproval

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