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1530s, "an agreement," from Middle French capitulation, noun of action from capituler "agree on specified terms," from Medieval Latin capitulare "to draw up in heads or chapters, arrange conditions," from capitulum "chapter," in classical Latin "heading," literally "a little head," diminutive of caput (genitive capitis) "head" (see capitulum). Meaning narrowed by mid-17c. to "make terms of surrender."
in the history of international law, any treaty whereby one state permitted another to exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction over its own nationals within the former state's boundaries. The term is to be distinguished from the military term "capitulation," an agreement for surrender. There was no element of surrender in the early capitulations made by European rulers with the powerful Turkish sultans who were motivated by a desire to avoid the burden of administering justice to foreign merchants. Later capitulations, which in the case of China and other Asian states resulted from military pressure by European states, came to be regarded as (and, in effect, were) humiliating derogations from the sovereignty and equality of these states.