1 [kap-i-tl]
the city or town that is the official seat of government in a country, state, etc.: Tokyo is the capital of Japan.
a city regarded as being of special eminence in some field of activity: New York is the dance capital of the world.
the wealth, whether in money or property, owned or employed in business by an individual, firm, corporation, etc.
an accumulated stock of such wealth.
any form of wealth employed or capable of being employed in the production of more wealth.
assets remaining after deduction of liabilities; the net worth of a business.
the ownership interest in a business.
any source of profit, advantage, power, etc.; asset: His indefatigable drive is his greatest capital.
capitalists as a group or class (distinguished from labor ): High taxation has reduced the spending power of capital.
pertaining to financial capital: capital stock.
principal; highly important: This guide offers suggestions of capital interest to travelers.
chief, especially as being the official seat of government of a country, state, etc.: the capital city of France.
excellent or first-rate: a capital hotel; a capital fellow.
involving the loss of life: capital punishment.
punishable by death: a capital crime; a capital offender.
fatal; extremely serious: a capital error.

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.)

capitalness, noun

capital, Capitol (see usage note at the current entry).

4. principal, investment, assets, stock. 11. prime, primary, first. 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.

11. trivial, minor.

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. Unabridged


2 [kap-i-tl]
noun Architecture.
the distinctively treated upper end of a column, pier, or the like.

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 Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
capital1 (ˈkæpɪtəl)
1.  a.  the seat of government of a country or other political unit
 b.  (as modifier): a capital city
2.  material wealth owned by an individual or business enterprise
3.  wealth available for or capable of use in the production of further wealth, as by industrial investment
4.  make capital of, make capital out of to get advantage from
5.  (sometimes capital) the capitalist class or their interests: capital versus labour
6.  accounting
 a.  the ownership interests of a business as represented by the excess of assets over liabilities
 b.  the nominal value of the authorized or issued shares
 c.  (as modifier): capital issues
7.  any assets or resources, esp when used to gain profit or advantage
8.  a.  cap., Abbreviation: cap a capital letter
 b.  (as modifier): capital B
9.  with a capital letter (used to give emphasis to a statement): he is mean with a capital M
10.  (prenominal) law involving or punishable by death: a capital offence
11.  very serious; fatal: a capital error
12.  primary, chief, or principal: our capital concern is that everyone be fed
13.  Compare small See also upper case 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 acronyms
14.  chiefly (Brit) excellent; first-rate: a capital idea
[C13: from Latin capitālis (adj) concerning the head, chief, from caput head; compare Medieval Latin capitāle (n) wealth, from capitālis (adj)]

capital2 (ˈkæpɪtəl)
chapiter, Also called: cap the upper part of a column or pier that supports the entablature
[C14: from Old French capitel, from Late Latin capitellum, diminutive of caput head]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

early 13c., from L. capitalis "of the head," from caput (gen. capitis) "head" (see head). A capital crime (1520s) is one that affects the life, or the "head." The noun meaning "capital city" is first recorded 1660s (the O.E. word was heafodstol); meaning "a capital letter"
is recorded from 1640s. The financial sense (1620s) is from L.L. capitale "stock, property," neut. of capitalis. Of ships, "first-rate, of the line," attested from 1650s. Capital gain is recorded from 1921. Capital goods is recorded from 1899. Capital punishment was in Blackstone (1765).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

capital definition

In architecture, the top portion of a column.

Note: 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.

capital definition

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

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see make capital out of.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Never before had the world seen capital flight on such a scale and speed,
  causing financial markets and economies to collapse.
The federal trial judge in a case issues her vital ruling before the capital
  defendant's lawyers have completed their argument.
But they are the preferred way to get hesitant capital in motion without making
  full financial commitments with tax dollars.
The nation's capital is a top destination for family travelers.
Idioms & Phrases
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