Today is Inauguration day 2021. The ceremony takes place in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., and the 46th president, Joe Biden, will be sworn in on the Capitol steps.
Which brings up the common confusion between the two words:
CAPITAL and CAPITOL
The two words look almost identical – one ends in “a-l” and one ends in “o-l.” Both refer to seats of government. The words are even pronounced the same way: CAP-uh-d’l.
So, is there a difference? Yes. One is a location, and the other is a building.
The “cap” in “capital” – is related to the Latin word for “head,” so a capital city is where the “head” of government is. Paris is the capital of France; Tokyo is the capital of Japan; and Washington, D.C. is the national capital of the United States.
“Capital” has other meanings, one of which is the English synonym for an “upper case” or “majuscule” letter, which we call a “capital letter.”
In every state capital in the United States there is a statehouse or “capitol” building. This is usually a formal, white marble building with Greek columns and topped with a neoclassical dome, where the state’s government officials work. Note that state capitol buildings use a lower case “c.”
The Capitol (with a capital C) in Washington, D.C. is a larger and more elegant version of state capitol buildings. It’s where our country’s Congress works, and the building is always capitalized.
To sum up: a statehouse is a “capitol” building; the only building with a capital “C” is the national Capitol building in Washington. The cities where statehouse capitols are located are “capitals”.
Confused by other words that seem similar? Check out my YouTube channel for more explanations. The more you know, the more confident you feel.