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 Jacobs wants to take it on a multi-state tour — including to the steps of Colorado’s state capitol — to show legislators that cannabis businesses can be as friendly, safe and lucrative as craft breweries. John Wenzel, The Know, "Starting Jan. 1, Coloradans will have more options for consuming cannabis in public. But will we catch up to California?," 27 Dec. 2019 The additional scholarship money would have an immediate, beneficial impact for thousands of young students within walking distance of the state capitol. Kevin Mooney, National Review, "In Pennsylvania, Democrats Fight a GOP Bill to Expand School Choice," 17 Dec. 2019 The national media spotlight will shine brightly on the nation's capitol, while Des Moines and Concord will go dark. Natasha Bach, Fortune, "Will Trump’s Impeachment Trial Be the End of the Road for Democratic Senators in the 2020 Race?," 9 Dec. 2019 The conference room looks down on the capitol, where the DLCC needs to flip two seats for Democrats to claim the majority in the state’s house of delegates and two more to do the same in the senate. Philip Elliott, Time, "How State Races Starting This Fall Will Shape Congress for the Next Decade," 5 Sep. 2019 With the fate of a massive bill that would regulate carbon emissions hanging in the balance, hundreds of truck drivers and loggers descended on the Oregon capitol Wednesday to make their case against the measure., "Hundreds of truckers, loggers rally at Oregon Capitol against carbon bill," 19 June 2019 Picture immersing yourself in the rustic countryside of Northern Indiana or the flourishing hillsides in southern Pennsylvania or drifting under a pleasant canopy of trees through Maryland to our nation's capitol. Kellie Hwang, Indianapolis Star, "Coast-to-coast rail trail will cut through Indiana. Here's what Hoosiers can expect.," 19 Dec. 2019 Anti-vaccination activists have been protesting at the capitol for the past two weeks. Madeline Holcombe, CNN, "California Senate floor is evacuated after a protester dumps apparent blood on lawmakers," 14 Sep. 2019 Ahead of a Senate hearing on the bill on July 9, Uber and Lyft gave around 500 drivers between $25 and $100, plus a free lunch, to rally at the state capitol in Sacramento in opposition to the bill. Lauren Kaori Gurley, The New Republic, "California Looks to Give Gig Workers Their Due," 24 July 2019

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

14 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Capitol.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 26 January 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

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 in a more acceptable way

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