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noun car·di·nal \ˈkärd-nəl, ˈkär-də-\

Simple Definition of cardinal

  • : a priest of the Roman Catholic Church who ranks immediately below the Pope

  • : a common North American bird

Full Definition of cardinal

  1. 1 :  a high ecclesiastical official of the Roman Catholic Church who ranks next below the pope and is appointed by him to assist him as a member of the college of cardinals

  2. 2 :  cardinal number —usually used in plural

  3. 3 [from its color, resembling that of the cardinal's robes] :  a crested finch (Cardinalis cardinalis of the family Cardinalidae) of the eastern United States and adjacent Canada, the southwestern United States, and Mexico to Belize which has a black face and heavy red bill in both sexes and is nearly completely red in the male

car·di·nal·ship play \-ˌship\ noun

Examples of cardinal

  1. The Pope appointed two new cardinals this year.

Illustration of cardinal

Origin of cardinal

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin cardinalis, from Late Latin cardinalis, adjective

First Known Use: 12th century



adjective car·di·nal

Simple Definition of cardinal

  • : basic or most important

Full Definition of cardinal

  1. 1 :  of basic importance <a cardinal principle>

  2. 2 :  very serious or grave <a cardinal sin>

car·di·nal·ly adverb

Examples of cardinal

  1. the cardinal principles of news reporting

  2. My cardinal rule is to always be honest.

Origin of cardinal

Middle English, from Late Latin cardinalis, from Latin, serving as a hinge, from cardin-, cardo hinge

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of cardinal

essential, fundamental, vital, cardinal mean so important as to be indispensable. essential implies belonging to the very nature of a thing and therefore being incapable of removal without destroying the thing itself or its character <conflict is essential in drama>. fundamental applies to something that is a foundation without which an entire system or complex whole would collapse <fundamental principles of algebra>. vital suggests something that is necessary to a thing's continued existence or operation <cut off from vital supplies>. cardinal suggests something on which an outcome turns or depends <a cardinal rule in buying a home>.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up cardinal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 12, 2016

of, relating to, or suggestive of marble

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