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

For the fourth workday in a row, public school teachers have walked out of class and into rallies at the state capitol. Sarah Jones, The New Republic, "West Virginia Rises," 27 Feb. 2018 The state legislature of North Carolina has resolved to build a monument to George Washington that will have pride of place in the capitol building in Raleigh. Jason Farago, New York Times, "A George Washington Monument, Rediscovered in Fragile Plaster," 27 June 2018 But in North Dakota and West Virginia, the tallest structure is the state capitol building. USA TODAY, "Skyscrapers across the U.S.: Tallest building in every state," 6 Mar. 2018 In a state that went much of the 20th century without any black representation in the capitol, the Black Caucus has taken a lead role in plotting a course through a crisis that is inextricably tied to race. Jon Kamp, WSJ, "Virginia’s Black Caucus Gains Strength Amid Political Turmoil," 15 Feb. 2019 On Tuesday night, Yabut drove the armored personnel carrier — equipped with treads — from Fort Pickett in Nottoway County, Va., southwest of Richmond, to an intersection near the state capitol. Washington Post, "Man who drove armored personnel carrier through Richmond streets was on drugs, police say," 7 June 2018 There were 10 hours of procedural moves in the Virginia capitol on Wednesday. Washington Post,, "Virginia’s Medicaid expansion is a big deal," 31 May 2018 The events surrounding the game will be anchored by the Golden 1 Center, with an indoor-outdoor Global Pavilion near the capitol to host concerts and food events that show off the region. Joe Freeman,, "Is Damian Lillard really overlooked, or is the Trail Blazers guard finally getting his due? Rip City Report podcast," 22 Feb. 2018 The lone scheduled meeting between these in-state rivals is a high-noon tip-off near our state capitol. Kirkland Crawford, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State Spartans vs. Michigan Wolverines: Time, TV, radio info," 12 Jan. 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

20 May 2019

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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 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

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).


a strong desire or propensity

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