adjective prin·ci·pal \ˈprin(t)-s(ə-)pəl, -sə-bəl\

: most important

Full Definition of PRINCIPAL

:  most important, consequential, or influential :  chief <the principal ingredient> <the region's principal city>
:  of, relating to, or constituting principal or a principal(see 2principal)
See Usage Discussion at principle
prin·ci·pal·ly \-sə-p(ə-)lē, -sə-bə-lē, -splē\ adverb

Examples of PRINCIPAL

  1. Vegetables are the principal ingredients in this soup.
  2. She is the principal cellist of the orchestra.
  3. If any suspect that Griswold was exaggerating, they should reflect on the fact that the principal Supreme Court case justifying the invocation of the national security privilege was based on a governmental lie. —Garry Wills, New York Review of Books, 12 Feb. 2009


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin principalis, from princip-, princeps
First Known Use: 14th century


noun prin·ci·pal \ˈprin(t)-s(ə-)pəl, -sə-bəl\

: the person in charge of a public school

: the person in charge of a university or college

: an amount of money that is put in a bank or lent to someone and that can earn interest

Full Definition of PRINCIPAL

:  a person who has controlling authority or is in a leading position: as
a :  a chief or head man or woman
b :  the chief executive officer of an educational institution
c :  one who engages another to act as an agent subject to general control and instruction; specifically :  the person from whom an agent's authority derives
d :  the chief or an actual participant in a crime
e :  the person primarily or ultimately liable on a legal obligation
f :  a leading performer :  star
:  a matter or thing of primary importance: as
a (1) :  a capital sum earning interest, due as a debt, or used as a fund
(2) :  the corpus of an estate, portion, devise, or bequest
b :  the construction that gives shape and strength to a roof and is usually one of several trusses; broadly :  the most important member of a piece of framing
See Usage Discussion at principle
prin·ci·pal·ship \ˈprin(t)-s(ə-)pəl-ˌship, -sə-bəl-\ noun

Examples of PRINCIPAL

  1. the new high school principal
  2. One of the principals in the assassination plot has been arrested.


(see 1principal)
First Known Use: 14th century

Related to PRINCIPAL

Other Education Terms

baccalaureate, colloquium, corequisite, dissertation, monograph, pedant, practicum, survey course, thesis


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May 28, 2015
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someone who writes fiction
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