Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun cen·ter \ˈsen-tər, ˈse-nər\

Simple Definition of center

  • : the middle point or part of something

  • : a person or thing that is causing a lot of interest, argument, etc.

  • : the position of a person or thing that is causing a lot of interest, argument, etc.

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of center

  1. 1 a :  the point around which a circle or sphere is described; broadly :  a point that is related to a geometrical figure in such a way that for any point on the figure there is another point on the figure such that a straight line joining the two points is bisected by the original point —called also center of symmetry b :  the center of the circle inscribed in a regular polygon

  2. 2 a :  a point, area, person, or thing that is most important or pivotal in relation to an indicated activity, interest, or condition <a railroad center> <the center of the controversy> b :  a source from which something originates <a propaganda center> c :  a group of neurons having a common function <respiratory center> d :  a region of concentrated population <an urban center> e :  a facility providing a place for a particular activity or service <a day-care center>

  3. 3 a :  the middle part (as of the forehead or a stage) b often capitalized (1) :  a grouping of political figures holding moderate views especially between those of conservatives and liberals (2) :  the views of such politicians (3) :  the adherents of such views

  4. 4 a :  a player occupying a middle position on a team: as (1) :  the football player in the middle of a line who passes the ball between his legs to a back to start a down (2) :  the usually tallest player on a basketball team who usually plays near the basket b :  center field

  5. 5 a :  either of two tapered rods which support work in a lathe or grinding machine and about or with which the work revolves b :  a conical recess in the end of work (as a shaft) for receiving such a center

centerless play \-ləs\ adjective

Examples of center in a sentence

  1. the center of the room

  2. The staircase is in the center of the building.

  3. They are at the center of a furious debate over whether or not to expand the city's public transportation system.

  4. The vaccine is being tested at several medical centers around the country.

Origin of center

Middle English centre, from Middle French, from Latin centrum, from Greek kentron sharp point, center of a circle, from kentein to prick; probably akin to Old High German hantag pointed

First Known Use: 14th century

Rhymes with center



verb, cen·ter

Simple Definition of center

  • : to place (something) in the middle of something

  • : to be mainly concerned about or involved with someone or something

  • : to cause (something) to be mainly concerned about or involved with something

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of center

centeredcentering play \ˈsen-t(ə-)riŋ, ˈse-nər-iŋ\

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to place or fix at or around a center or central area <center the picture on the wall>

  3. 2 :  to give a central focus or basis <centers her hopes on her son> <the plot was centered on espionage>

  4. 3 :  to adjust (as lenses) so that the axes coincide

  5. 4 a :  to pass (a ball or puck) from either side toward the middle of the playing area b :  to hand or pass (a football) backward between one's legs to a back to start a down

  6. 5 :  to play center on <center a line in hockey>

  7. intransitive verb
  8. :  to have a specified center :  focus

Usage Discussion of center

The intransitive verb center is most commonly used with the prepositions in, on, at, and around. At appears to be favored in mathematical contexts; the others are found in a broad range of contexts. Center around, a standard idiom, has often been objected to as illogical. The logic on which the objections are based is irrelevant, since center around is an idiom and idioms have their own logic. Center on is currently more common in edited prose, and revolve around and similar verbs are available if you want to avoid center around.

Examples of center in a sentence

  1. Center the picture on the wall.

  2. <centered administrative duties under the command of a single person>


First Known Use of center


CENTER Defined for Kids



noun cen·ter \ˈsen-tər\

Definition of center for Students

  1. 1 :  the middle part of something <the center of a room>

  2. 2 :  a person or thing characterized by a particular concentration or activity <She likes to be the center of attention.>

  3. 3 :  a place used for a particular purpose <day care center>

  4. 4 :  the middle point of a circle or a sphere equally distant from every point on the circumference or surface

  5. 5 :  a player occupying a middle position on a basketball, football, hockey, lacrosse, or soccer team



verb cen·ter

Definition of center for Students


  1. 1 :  to place or fix at or around a center or central area <Can you center the picture on the wall?>

  2. 2 :  to collect or concentrate at or around one point, group, or person <His life centers around his family.>

Medical Dictionary


noun cen·ter

Medical Definition of center

  1. :  a group of nerve cells having a common function <the brain stem's respiratory center>—called also nerve center

Variants of center

or chiefly British centre \ˈsent-ər\play

Seen and Heard

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


to dishevel or rumple

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of these is a synonym of nonplus?

perplex soothe disapprove reduce
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.