The word ‘capital’ stems from the Latin ‘capitalis’ ‘relating to the head’, and its use in English is traceable back to the early thirteenth century. From the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it was applied to crimes that headed the list of offences (e.g. murder and treason). On the same basis it was applied to the head city of a country, the most important ships in the navy and to upper case letters that head a sentence. The financial sense (1620s) is from the Latin ‘capitale’ ‘stock/property’ (neutral of ‘capitalis’). In indicating the wealth of an individual or group, it originally referred to moveable property (as in ‘chattels’) such as slaves or cattle. By the late eighteenth century, and with the emergence of the Industrial Revolution, its meaning had shifted and had come to refer specifi - cally to the forms of non-moveable wealth that are employed in the processes of production.
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