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Caput, a Latin word meaning literally "head" and by metonymy "top",[1] has been borrowed in a variety of English words, including capital, captain, and decapitate. The surname Caputo, common in the Campania region of Italy, comes from the appellation used by some Roman military generals. A variant form has surfaced more recently in the title Capo (or Caporegime), the head of La Cosa Nostra. The French language converted 'caput' into chief, chef, and chapitre, later borrowed in English as chapter.

The central settlement in an Anglo-Saxon multiple estate was called a caput,[2] (short for caput baroniae, see below). The word is also used for the centre of administration of a hundred.

Caput was also the name of the council or ruling body of the University of Cambridge prior to the constitution of 1856 and remains the presiding body of the Senate of the University of Dublin

Caput baronium is the seat of a barony in Scotland. Caput baroniae is the seat of an English feudal barony. (Baronia, nominative case of a feminine Latin noun, is correctly baroniae in the genitive.)

Caput is also used in medicine to describe any head like protuberance on an organ or structure, such as the caput humeri.

In music, caput may refer to the Missa Caput or the plainsong melisma on which it is based.

In arachnology, the caput or "head" is the cephalic part of a cephalothorax.

The German word kaputt ("destroyed"), from which derives the English colloquialism 'caput' meaning done, or finished, is not related to this word.


  1. ^ Cassell's Latin Dictionary, revised by Marchant & Charles, 260th thousand
  2. ^ Michael Aston, Interpreting the Landscape (Routledge, reprinted 1998, page 34)