Spelling Tips: Capital vs. Capitol
  • 4-minute read
  • 26th June 2023

Spelling Tips: Capital vs. Capitol

Have you ever encountered words in English that sound the same but are spelled differently? Consider the following examples:

Lisbon is the capital city of Portugal.

The state capitol of Colorado is located in downtown Denver.

Wait? Is there a difference between capital and capitol? They look the same, right? Not really. We pronounce capital and capitol as kap-i-tl, but they have different meanings. The difference between them confuses many English learners, so we’re sharing this post about distinguishing capital and capitol in English. Capital and capitol are examples of homophones, which we’ll define. We’ll also provide examples of using each in sentences and discuss why you should be aware of similar words. By the end, you’ll know when to use capital and capitol in your writing.

What Are Homophones?

Homophones are two or more words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings. They aren’t easy to spot, as they are often spelled differently by just one or two letters. In fact, homophones are one of the most common spelling errors in English.

Common homophones include the following:

●  Four, for

●  Ate, eight

●  Two, to, too

●  Bread, bred

●  Bee, be

Homophones can cause typos in writing; however, a word processor’s spell-checking tool wouldn’t flag them as errors. Let’s say a writer used the word bee when they meant be. A spell-checker wouldn’t flag it as an error because bee is spelled correctly. Therefore, you need to know the meaning of your intended word to fit your sentence’s context.

Definition of Capital

There are many definitions of capital. It can be either a noun or an adjective. The most common definition is the city or town where a country’s government is located.

Madrid is the capital city of Spain.

Capital also means a place that is regarded as the center of a field of activity.

Hawaii is considered the surfing capital of the world (Hawaii is the best place for surfing in the world).

Another common use is to capitalize the first letter of a proper noun.

I live in Ohio.

Ohio is spelled with a capital O because it is a proper noun. We typically capitalize proper nouns, but there are other capitalization rules in English.

Other definitions of capital include:

1. Relating to financial capital (adjective): I have capital stock.

2. Something very important (adjective): This cookbook contains recipes of capital interest to renowned chefs.

3. The death penalty (adjective): I’m opposed to capital punishment.


Definition of Capitol

Most English learners assume capitol and capital are the same – they aren’t. Capitol is a noun, and it means the building where Congress sits in Washington, D.C., as shown below.

U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.

When referring to this famous building, you would capitalize it:

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Tourists love taking pictures of the U.S. Capitol.

We also use capitol as a noun to talk about a building that houses the government of an American state. In this context, capitol refers to the government building in a state’s capital city, as shown in our example:

Texas State Capitol, Austin

We capitalize capitol when writing Texas State Capitol, for example. However, you wouldn’t need to capitalize it when used as:

The state capitol of Florida is located on Monroe Street.

If you’re unsure when to use capitol versus capital, remember the following:

●  Use capital when referring to the city or town where a country’s government is located.

●  Use capitol when referring to the famous U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

●  Use capitol when referring to the building that houses an American state’s government.


 Let’s recap what we’ve learned:

●  Capital and capitol are examples of homophones

●  Homophones are two or more words that are pronounced the same, but they have different meanings and spelling

●  If used incorrectly, homophones can alter the meaning of a sentence

●  Capital and capitol cannot be used interchangeably

●  Capital can be a noun or adjective; capitol functions as a noun

●  Capital is commonly used when referring to a capital city

●  Capital also means the capital letter of a word

●  Capitol refers to the building that houses a state’s government

●  Capitol also refers to the famous U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

●  You capitalize capitol when referring to the US Capitol and a specific state capitol building

Combat Homophone Trouble by Proofreading

 Homophones such as capital and capitol can cause errors in writing if they are not used in the correct context. Additionally, they can be very difficult to spot when you’re writing an essay of 1,000 words or more.

As spell-checkers aren’t always reliable, you need to be able to proofread like a professional. Your eyes are your best weapon for finding incorrect words based on context. We understand the challenge of proofreading, so ask our proofreading experts to review your document. They can tackle potential homophone errors by ensuring the words in your essay fit the context. Moreover, our proofreaders will check for grammatical errors and ensure perfect spelling. Consider submitting a 500-word document for free!

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