cen·​ter | \ ˈsen-tər How to pronounce center (audio) , ˈse-nər \

Definition of center

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : 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 (see regular entry 1 sense 3b) polygon
2a : 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 a shopping center a medical center
3a : 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 The party's new policies show a shift toward the center.
(3) : the adherents of such views
4a : a player occupying a middle position on a team: such 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
5a : 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 (such as a shaft) for receiving such a center


centered; centering\ ˈsen-​t(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce center (audio) , ˈse-​nər-​iŋ \

Definition of center (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to place or fix at or around a center or central area center the picture on the wall
2 : to give a central focus or basis centers her hopes on her son the plot was centered on espionage
3 : to adjust (things, such as lenses) so that the axes coincide
4a : 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 (see back entry 1 sense 3) to start a down
5 : to play center (see center entry 1 sense 4) on center a line in hockey

intransitive verb

: to have a specified center : focus

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Other Words from center


centerless \ ˈsen-​tər-​ləs How to pronounce center (audio) , ˈse-​nər-​ \ adjective

What prepositions are used with center?: Usage Guide


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

Noun the center of the room The staircase is in the center of the building. They are at the center of a furious debate over whether or not to expand the city's public transportation system. The vaccine is being tested at several medical centers around the country. Verb Center the picture on the wall. centered administrative duties under the command of a single person
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The center scored his first goal of the season and won nine of 17 faceoffs. The Numbers, Star Tribune, "Saturday's Wild-Kings game recap," 17 Jan. 2021 Miramontes said the infusion center aims to reduce the burden on hospitals by targeting patients who are at a high risk of COVID complications but aren’t seriously ill. Lauren Caruba,, "Hospitals full. Thousands infected with coronavirus each week. San Antonio pays the price for failing to flatten the curve.," 16 Jan. 2021 Altman received a text message from Drummond on Wednesday, with the burly center congratulating the GM on a great trade. Chris Fedor, cleveland, "Can Cleveland Cavaliers truly afford to trade Andre Drummond?," 16 Jan. 2021 The snap from center was high and the ball was basically kicked into the middle of the West Bloomfield defensive line. Mick Mccabe, Detroit Free Press, "How West Bloomfield football finally exacted revenge on Belleville to make state finals," 16 Jan. 2021 On Tuesday, the line of people waiting outside the senior center in a gentrifying part of majority Black Ward 5, snaked around the parking lot, up an embankment, and down a sidewalk. Washington Post, "D.C. opened vaccine appointments to people 65 and older. Here’s what some seniors went through to get the shot.," 16 Jan. 2021 Former Alabama standout Donta Hall has returned to the NBA G League, and soon the center will be back in the basketball bubble. Mark Inabinett |, al, "Donta Hall to play for NBA G League Ignite," 15 Jan. 2021 The center ran an electronics repair program in New York for over a decade before pausing last year. Irina Ivanova, CBS News, "How manufacturers make it impossible to repair your electronics," 15 Jan. 2021 Despite these other interests, the center of his life, friends and colleagues said, was always the news business, especially the way that newspapers are put together. John Pope,, "Longtime newspaper editor Tom Gregory dies at 86," 15 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb If Harry Miller moves to center as expected, Johnson and Matthew Jones project as the starting guards. Nathan Baird, cleveland, "What Thayer Munford’s NFL Draft decision means for Ohio State football: Buckeyes 2021," 16 Jan. 2021 For some reason, these occurrences become the Olympics for who can be the most inappropriate with other humans in an effort to center themselves. Jessica Wilkins,, "Why I’ve Retired From the Bridesmaids Game," 4 Jan. 2021 Marfa, Texas is a beautiful somewhere in the middle of nowhere American writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau knew a thing or two about this sentiment, this feeling that nature can center you and be your sacred place. Alison Medley, Chron, "I survived quarantine through hikes at a Texas park," 7 Nov. 2020 Ji-Man Choi greeted reliever Dustin May with a two-run single to center to push the Rays' advantage to 5-0. Steve Gardner, USA TODAY, "Simulated World Series: Rays blank Dodgers to set up Game 7 showdown," 27 Oct. 2020 Ninth hitter Austin Barnes, up next, shot a single to center that scored Bellinger. Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Dodgers 3, Brewers 0: Rough fifth inning is enough to end brief postseason run," 1 Oct. 2020 First baseman Yasmani Grandal drove in Moncada with a single to center. Lamond Pope,, "James McCann homers twice as the White Sox beat the Pirates 8-1, while Jose Abreu extends his hitting streak to 22 games," 9 Sep. 2020 Josh Bell led off the Pittsburgh ninth with a single to center. John Fay, The Enquirer, "Cincinnati Reds blow lead in ninth inning, fall to Pittsburgh Pirates," 6 Sep. 2020 Mauricio Dubón lined a single to center with two outs. Steve Kroner,, "Giants’ bullpen thrives as SF tops D’backs, ends skid at 3," 29 Aug. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'center.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of center


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1555, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for center


Middle English centre, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin centrum "point of the stationary leg of a pair of compasses, midpoint of a circle or sphere," borrowed from Greek kéntron "sting, goad, point, stationary point of a pair of compasses, midpoint of a circle or sphere," probably reshaping (after the base verb kenteîn) of késtron "toothed implement, name for several nettle-like plants," from kentéō, kenteîn "to sting, goad, prick" (going back to Indo-European *ḱent-, *ḱnt- "sting, prick," whence Old High German hantag "pointed," Latvian sīts "hunting spear") + -tron, suffix of instruments


derivative of center entry 1

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Time Traveler for center

Time Traveler

The first known use of center was in the 14th century

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Statistics for center

Last Updated

22 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Center.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for center


How to pronounce center (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of center

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: 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.



English Language Learners Definition of center (Entry 2 of 2)

: 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


cen·​ter | \ ˈsen-tər How to pronounce center (audio) \

Kids Definition of center

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the middle part of something the center of a room
2 : a person or thing characterized by a particular concentration or activity She likes to be the center of attention.
3 : a place used for a particular purpose day care center
4 : the middle point of a circle or a sphere equally distant from every point on the circumference or surface
5 : a player occupying a middle position on a basketball, football, hockey, lacrosse, or soccer team


centered; centering

Kids Definition of center (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to place or fix at or around a center or central area Can you center the picture on the wall?
2 : to collect or concentrate at or around one point, group, or person His life centers around his family.


variants: or chiefly British centre \ ˈsent-​ər How to pronounce center (audio) \

Medical Definition of center

: a group of nerve cells having a common function the brain stem's respiratory center

called also nerve center

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