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The word capital (which comes from the Latin word for 'a head') has several meanings. For most students and users of AWE, the following may be the most useful.

  • In writing and printing, a capital letter, or, briefly, 'a capital', is the upper case letter used at the start of a sentence, as the first letter of a proper noun, or in the titles of books and so on.
  • In geography, the capital city of a country is the city where the important organs of its government reside. Again, this is often named elliptically as its capital, as in "London is the capital of the UK and of England; Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland."
  • In economics and business, capital (usually a noun) is the accumulated wealth of a company, or other large organisation.
  • In Law and Criminology, capital punishment is the killing of a convicted prisoner. This no longer happens in the UK. In many other countries it is the normal punishment for a murderer - as it used to be, and indeed for "some 220" ([[1]]) other crimes, in this country. (You may like to consult the up-to-date version of Wikipedia to know more: [[2]].
  • In architecture, the 'head', or top part, of a column etc is its capital. Capitals are usually ornamented in traditional building: in classical styles, there are strict rules about Corinthian, Doric and Attic capitals. These words are derived from the names of areas of ancient Greece, with their local styles.
It is rather old-fashioned now to use the word "Capital!" as a slangy exclamation meaning "Very good!" or "excellent!". But students of literature or history may come across it in nineteenth or early twentieth century texts.
Don't confuse capital with capitol