Capital vs. Capitol

ctj71081, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
ctj71081, Flickr // CC BY 2.0 / ctj71081, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

By Mignon Fogarty, Quick and Dirty Tips

So, what's the difference between capital and capitol? Read ahead to find out.


Capital refers to a city that is the seat of government for its region or is important in some way. It has other meanings, too. A capital is an uppercase letter. Capital is also wealth or money, especially in the context of business:

"Squiggly needs capital to get his hot chocolate stand up and running."

Capital can also mean “particular or significant”:

"It is of capital importance that we arrive early so don’t end up in the back."

And it can mean “fabulous”:

"Bringing songs to sing on the bus? That's a capital idea!'

And of course, we have capital crimes and capital punishment, which relate to the death penalty.


The other kind of capitol refers to buildings—state capitol buildings or, in the United States, the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Capitol with an O refers only to buildings; that’s its only use. You can remember the spelling by thinking that the big rotunda of the Capitol building is round like the letter O in the word.

Should you capitalize capitol?

You capitalize it when you’re writing about the Capitol building in D.C. where Congress meets. According to AP style, you should also capitalize it when referring to a specific state capitol building, but other style guides say to keep it lowercase for state capitol buildings, so be sure to check your style guide if you follow one.

"The Senate convened at the Capitol to vote on the new bill." "Our class visited Wisconsin's Capitol in Madison last week. (AP style, NYT style)" "Our class visited Wisconsin's capitol in Madison last week. (Chicago style)"

A version of this article was originally published on Quick and Dirty Tips as "Capital vs. Capitol." Read more from Quick and Dirty Tips.

About the author

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.