“Capital” vs. “Capitol”: The Difference

On the sixth day of 2021, a previously inconceivable abomination occurred in Washington, D.C. A conspired insurrection and coordinated siege of the United States Capitol building by a right-wing mob of white supremacists, incited by the President, took place in a deliberate attempt to disrupt and abort the U.S. Congress’ electoral certification of President-elect Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

While this news is still very fresh and current in the minds of millions, I have noticed that many individuals are unaware that there is a difference between the terms “capital” and “capitol”. On social media, one can see individuals trying to correct the spelling of their peers and, occasionally, the journalists who authored articles about the storming of the perennial emblem of American government and democracy. After reading many comments, exchanges, tweets, and correspondence since the tragedy, it became clear to me that many readers, based in the States or abroad, may not be entirely aware of the difference in the two words. Though they may sound very similar when spoken orally, the two words have different definitions.

This blog article is meant to quickly clarify the connotations of the terms with some photography to illustrate. I hope you find it helpful.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, here are the two terms in question:

In the context of what occurred on January 6th, a “capital” is a city in an American state that serves as the seat of government for that state. Whereas, a “capitol” is the physical edifice within which the state government — inclusive of state representatives, state senators, and the governor — legislates. Most state “capitols” in the United States are customized replicas of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Here are some examples to underscore the point:

Denver, Colorado

Denver is the capital of the State of Colorado. The first image features the capital city of Denver. The second image features the Colorado state capitol located in Denver.

Madison, Wisconsin

Madison is the capital of the State of Wisconsin. The first image features the capital city of Madison. The second image features the Wisconsin state capitol located in Madison.

Olympia, Washington

Olympia is the capital of the State of Washington. The first picture features the capital city of Olympia. The second image features the Washington state capitol located in Olympia.

Remember: Not all state capitols are replicas of the U.S. Capitol! Here are a few capitals whose capitols deviate slightly or significantly from the architectural design of the U.S. Capitol.

Juneau, Alaska

Juneau is the capital of the State of Alaska. The first image features the capital city of Juneau. The second image features the Alaska state capitol located in Juneau.

Annapolis, Maryland

Annapolis is the capital of the State of Maryland. The first image features the capital city of Annapolis. The second image features the Maryland state capitol located in Annapolis.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu is the capital of the State of Hawaii. The first image features the capital city of Honolulu. The second image features the Hawaii state capitol located in Honolulu.

There you go!

In spite of all the recent, maddening, and fitful occurrences taking place concurrently around the world, TIA would like to extend its sincerest wishes of prosperity, good health, success, and peace of mind (relatively speaking, of course) to you and your loved ones in 2021.

2 thoughts on ““Capital” vs. “Capitol”: The Difference

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    1. Thanks, Kirk. Your comment is profound because without knowledge and education, we arrive at a situation such as present day with so many people who don’t know or are misinformed about simple matters. (The difference between these two terms should not be controversial, yet…). I try very hard to inform and educate with my photography — it may be part of the reason why I struggle with my photo business. It can’t all be entertaining all the time. Cheers for the encouragement.

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