late 14c.; see capital (adj.). So called because it is at the "head" of a sentence or word.
Cambodian capital, literally "mountain of plenty," from Cambodian phnom "mountain, hill" + penh "full."
symbol of artistic or intellectual aloofness, by 1889, from French tour d'ivoire, used in 1837 by critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869) with reference to the poet Alfred de Vigny (1797-1863), whom he accused of excessive aloofness.
Et Vigny, plus secret, comme en sa tour d'ivoire, avant midi rentrait. [Sainte-Beuve, "Pensées d'Août, à M. Villemain," 1837]
Used earlier as a type of a wonder or a symbol of "the ideal." The literal image is perhaps from Song of Solomon [vii:4]:
Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus. [KJV]
the surname (also Munroe, etc.) is said to be ultimately from the River Roe in Derry, Ireland. James Monroe (1758-1831), the fifth U.S. president, was in office from 1817 to 1825. The Monroe Doctrine (so called from 1848) is a reference to the principles of policy contained in his message to Congress on Dec. 2, 1823. Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, also was named for him at its founding in 1822 by the American Colonization Society.
In terms of national psychology, the Monroe Doctrine marked the moment when Americans no longer faced eastward across the Atlantic and turned to face westward across the continent. [Daniel Walker Howe, "What Hath God Wrought"]