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cardinal

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noun car·di·nal \ˈkärd-nəl, ˈkär-də-\

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

cardinalship

play \-ˌship\ noun

Examples of cardinal in a sentence

  1. The Pope appointed two new cardinals this year.

Did You Know?

Our word cardinal goes back to the Latin adjective cardinalis, which meant “serving as a hinge.” The root of this word is the noun cardo, meaning “hinge.” Since a hinge is the device on which a door turns, cardo came to mean “something on which a development turns” or “something very important.” Later the Roman Catholic Church used the adjective cardinalis to refer to principal churches and priests and then to mean “a clergyman of the highest rank, next to the pope.” When borrowed into English, cardinalis became cardinal. A cardinal's robes are a deep red color, and this color influenced the naming of the bird whose color was like that of a cardinal's robes.

Illustration of cardinal

Origin and Etymology of cardinal

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


First Known Use: 12th century


2

cardinal

adjective car·di·nal

Definition of cardinal

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

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

cardinally

adverb

Examples of cardinal in a sentence

  1. the cardinal principles of news reporting

  2. My cardinal rule is to always be honest.

Origin and Etymology 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>.


CARDINAL Defined for English Language Learners

1

cardinal

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noun car·di·nal \ˈkärd-nəl, ˈkär-də-\

Definition of cardinal for English Language Learners

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

  • : a common North American bird


2

cardinal

adjective car·di·nal

Definition of cardinal for English Language Learners

  • : basic or most important


CARDINAL Defined for Kids

1

cardinal

play
noun car·di·nal \ˈkärd-nəl, ˈkär-də-\

Definition of cardinal for Students

  1. 1 :  a high official of the Roman Catholic Church ranking next below the pope

  2. 2 :  a bright red songbird with a crest and a whistling call


2

cardinal

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adjective car·di·nal

Definition of cardinal for Students

  1. :  of first importance :  main, principal <Arnold Jones had apparently forgotten one of the cardinal rules of survival … — Jerry Spinelli, Maniac Magee>



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