Nearby words

  1. capillary vein,
  2. capillatus,
  3. capillus,
  4. capistration,
  5. capita,
  6. capital account,
  7. capital allowance,
  8. capital asset,
  9. capital assets,
  10. capital budget

Origin of capital

1175–1225; Middle English; (adj.) (< Anglo-French) < Latin capitālis of the head (capit-, stem of caput head, + -ālis -al1); (noun) < Medieval Latin capitāle wealth, noun use of neuter of capitālis (adj.)

Related formscap·i·tal·ness, noun

Can be confusedcapital Capitol (see usage note at the current entry)

Synonym study

11. The adjectives capital, chief, major, principal apply to a main or leading representative of a kind. Capital may mean larger or more prominent; it may also suggest preeminence or excellence: capital letter, idea, virtue, etc. Chief means leading, highest in office or power: the chief clerk. Major may refer to greatness of importance, number, or quantity: a major operation, the major part of a population. Principal refers to most distinguished, influential, or foremost: principal officer.

Usage note

The noun capital1 refers to a city or town that is the seat of government; to a capital letter as opposed to a lowercase letter; and to wealth or resources. The noun Capitol refers primarily to the building in Washington, D.C., in which Congress sits or to similar buildings used by state legislatures.



noun Architecture.

the distinctively treated upper end of a column, pier, or the like.

Origin of capital

1250–1300; Middle English capitale head (noun use of neuter of Latin adj.) for Latin capitellum, equivalent to capit- (stem of caput) head + -ellum diminutive suffix Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for capital

British Dictionary definitions for capital




  1. the seat of government of a country or other political unit
  2. (as modifier)a capital city
material wealth owned by an individual or business enterprise
wealth available for or capable of use in the production of further wealth, as by industrial investment
make capital of or make capital out of to get advantage from
(sometimes capital) the capitalist class or their interestscapital versus labour
  1. the ownership interests of a business as represented by the excess of assets over liabilities
  2. the nominal value of the authorized or issued shares
  3. (as modifier)capital issues
any assets or resources, esp when used to gain profit or advantage
  1. a capital letterAbbreviation: cap., cap
  2. (as modifier)capital B
with a capital letter (used to give emphasis to a statement)he is mean with a capital M


(prenominal) law involving or punishable by deatha capital offence
very serious; fatala capital error
primary, chief, or principalour capital concern is that everyone be fed
of, relating to, or designating the large modern majuscule letter used chiefly as the initial letter in personal names and place names and other uniquely specificatory nouns, and often for abbreviations and acronymsCompare small (def. 9) See also upper case
mainly British excellent; first-ratea capital idea

Word Origin for capital

C13: from Latin capitālis (adj) concerning the head, chief, from caput head; compare Medieval Latin capitāle (n) wealth, from capitālis (adj)


the upper part of a column or pier that supports the entablatureAlso called: chapiter, cap

Word Origin for capital

C14: from Old French capitel, from Late Latin capitellum, diminutive of caput head

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for capital
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for capital


In architecture, the top portion of a column.


The form of the capital often serves to distinguish one style of architecture from another. For example, the Corinthian, Doric, and Ionic styles of Greek architecture all have different capitals.

Money used to finance the purchase of the means of production, such as machines, or the machines themselves.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with capital


see make capital out of.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.