Capital and Capitol Definition › Nation’s Capital


One of the more challenging homophones to tell apart are capital and capitol.

These homophones, or words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings, are some of the most easily confused homophone pairs. They have subtle differences, however, which need to be noticed!

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Capital v. Capitol

Capital is spelled phonetically, and pronounced CAP i tull. The emphasis is on the first syllable.

It has many different meanings.

The first meaning, and the one that is used most often, is a city.

Within a country, state, province, or other administrative region, the capital is the place where most of the important people live.

It is where the administration, including all the politicians, come together to make policy and discuss different things. The heart of the government, whether national or regional, is at the capital.

The capital can also be a type of money.

Whether you are talking about investing or economics, capital is the sum that you have. Most of the time it is used for a specific purpose, such as investing in a new business or using the money for some other purpose.

In some cases, it refers to any kind of resource.

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Capital can be monetary (and indeed, most of the time it is).

However, there are things like social capital that refers to the people that you know that can help you out, or personal capital, which refers to skills that you have that could be useful in a future career (or some other instance).

For the third noun definition of capital, you can think of capital letters. Any letters that are big (such as T, F, or S) are capital letters. The opposite of capital letters are lowercase letters.

As an adjective, capital can describe any of the above nouns. In the context of crime, it is something that could lead to the death penalty. A capital crime or capital offense is something that could be punished by the death penalty.

Capitol is pronounced almost the same way as its homophone, but some people pronounce the last syllable with an “o” sound (CAP i toll) rather than the “u” sound of capital.

Either way, it is more straightforward and has only one meaning.

It is a noun that means the building that politicians and lawmakers meet in to make policy. You can have state, provincial, or national capitols.

There, you will find people such as prime ministers, legislators, representatives, presidents, and sometimes judges, who decide what things are and are not allowed in an area of law.

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Common Collocations with Capital

Especially because capital has so many different meanings, there are several commonly used collocations with it. Here are some of them, explained.

Nation’s (national) capital

A nation’s capital is the city that is the administrative center of the country. It is where the leader of the country lives, and where most of the national lawmakers also reside.

Some national capitals may surprise you because they are not always chosen based on the largest cities in the country.

They are often smaller cities that provide a compromise between large cities, so no single city is overwhelmingly populated or important. Some of the national capitals all over the world include:

  • Capital of Australia: Canberra
  • Capital of Canada: Ottawa
  • Capital of Kenya: Nairobi
  • Capital of Argentina: Buenos Aires
  • Capital of Norway: Oslo
  • Capital of Brazil: Brasília
  • Capital of Indonesia: Jakarta
  • Capital of India: New Delhi

Notice that some, but not all, of these cities are the largest city in the nation (such as Buenos Aires and Jakarta).

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State capital

If a country is divided administratively into different states, that usually means that each state can make its own laws.

The state officials (led by the governor) typically live and work in the state capital. One of the most well known countries with states and state capitals is the United States. Some of the state capitals in the US include:

  • Capital of Texas: Austin
  • Capital of New York: Albany
  • Capital of Georgia: Atlanta
  • Capital of Florida: Tallahassee
  • Capital of Missouri: Jefferson City
  • Capital of Maine: Augusta
  • Capital of Alaska: Juneau
  • Capital of California: Sacramento
  • Capital of New Hampshire: Concord
  • Capital of Washington: Olympia

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Social capital

Someone’s social capital is the relationships that they have with other people. This is typically thought of in terms of someone needing help or looking for a job or recommendation for something.

When a person has a high social capital, they have many people that they can turn to. If they are looking for a job, they can ask their network of friends, who are willing to help that person out.

Having a lot of social capital is not something that you can measure (at least not as well as you can measure other types of capital). However, it can be just as important.

  • Building your social capital can be just as important to getting a good job as learning more skills.
  • I have always been easy to make friends, but I did not realize the importance of that skill until I lost my job and had to lean on my social capital to find a new one.

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Financial capital

Financial capital is money, typically cash. This is the term used when you need the money to invest or to build something, especially a business. People can raise capital when they need it.

  • The entrepreneur had a lot of financial capital at the start of his business but he still went bankrupt.
  • The worth of a company is more than just its financial capital.

Individual or personal capital

This is the total amount of capital that a person has. It can refer to the money someone has, their skills, but also their social capital. As long as it applies to a single person, it is individual or personal capital.

  • If you want to build more individual capital, you have to invest in yourself.
  • Many people can be successful regardless of how much personal capital they start out with, as long as they know how to work hard to build it.

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Human Capital

When it comes to evaluating a business, the human capital is almost always the most important. That is, the people involved in working on something.

It certainly is important to have startup money and a good system in place to attract quality people, but you must be able to keep them. This is because the human capital makes up the people that work somewhere.

Even if you have people who are being paid the same amount of money, the quality of their output is the key. If someone takes their job seriously and has great quality output, that is definitely worth paying for.

  • Human capital is an asset for a company, but cannot really be measured.
  • The two main categories of assets for a company are human capital and physical capital.

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Physical Capital

A company’s physical capital is the physical things that they own.

This can range from the large buildings that they have bought, to the machines they use to produce goods, to the pens and pencils that help their employees provide services. Anything they own that can be touched is physical capital.

When calculating the net worth of a company, the majority of the numbers on the balance sheet that their accountants will use will be physical capital, and cash. This, however, does not include important metrics like brand recognition or the quality of their human capital.

  • If the company rents out their office space, the value of the building is no part of their physical capital because they don’t own it.
  • The company must maintain a good balance of cash and physical capital to make sure they can be productive but also weather any rough times.

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Common Collocations with Capitol

Capitol Theater

The Capitol Theater is a name. It can refer to any theater that is in a capital city and has performances; they are all over the United States. However, the one in Port Chester, New York seems to be the most popular.

  • I have tickets to the musical at the Capitol Theater for tomorrow night.
  • The Capitol Theater’s website has a couple of listings for events next month; does anything look interesting to you?

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Capitol Building

The Capitol Building refers to the building in Washington, D. C., United States that is on Capitol Hill.

It houses the American legislature, so most laws that affect the entire nation originate from that building. The National Mall is to its west. The building is open to the public! Check here for more information.

  • The nation’s senators and representatives are gathering today at the Capitol Building to discuss their plans for this year.

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United States Capitol

The United States Capitol is the official name of the Capitol Building.

  • Our class is planning a field trip to the United States Capitol in March.
  • The United States Capitol is a grand building; too bad it is under renovation right now.

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Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill officially is a district in Washington, D. C., the capital of the United States.

Because it represents the part of the city where the senators and representatives meet to make laws, it is also a metonym (a figure of speech) for the American government as a whole.

If there is something that is happening in the national political climate, you can say that there is “news in Capitol Hill.”

  • Today, the President is giving his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill, where thousands of members of the press are gathered.
  • “All the problems in politics come from Capitol Hill,” said the man.

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