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 hospital first became aware Dec. 27 of the positive test for the patient at the center of the outbreak. oregonlive, "COVID-19 outbreak at Vancouver hospital still under investigation, samples sent to determine if mutated virus played role," 5 Jan. 2021 Even though non-QM loans are considered riskier than QM loans, they should not be confused with the subprime loans that were at the center of the housing crisis. Washington Post, "Good news for self-employed borrowers: Nonqualifying mortgages are staging a comeback," 4 Jan. 2021 The logo at the center of the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium was a familiar one on New Year’s Day — the red stylized Rose Bowl Game logo, which normally adorns its namesake stadium in Pasadena, Calif. New York Times, "Alabama and Ohio State Reach the National Title Game With Runaway Wins," 1 Jan. 2021 Bingo cards can be picked up at the center or delivered to those who do not drive., "Community News For The Windsor Edition," 31 Dec. 2020 McLellan had arrived at the center to train with Peter Kwong, a structural biologist tinkering with the structures of viral proteins in the hopes of engineering a vaccine that would stop AIDS. Daniel Wrapp, Science, "They spent 12 years solving a puzzle. It yielded the first COVID-19 vaccines.," 31 Dec. 2020 Japanese cream puff chain Beard Papa opened at the end of November at the center, while Omakase to Go gave the location a go earlier this month. Anna Caplan, Dallas News, "Hard-to-find Cambodian food is now on the menu in Grand Prairie," 31 Dec. 2020 At the center of the scheme was a former Crowdsurge employee who went to work for Live Nation in 2013, and who prosecutors say encouraged his new colleagues to use login details to gather information on their competitor. Rebecca Davis O’brien, WSJ, "Ticketmaster to Pay $10 Million Fine to Resolve Criminal Charges," 30 Dec. 2020 Miyamoto began to see himself as being at the center of his own story, the better to reimagine the disappointments in his life as the first act in a kind of comeback narrative. Neima Jahromi, The New Yorker, "The Puzzle Inventor Who Makes Math Beautiful," 30 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Maternal health advocates have long said that Mexico’s obstetric model must change to center on women. New York Times, "In Mexico, Childbirth in Covid’s Shadow," 22 Dec. 2020 Arozarena, who walked with two outs, to push the tying run to second, scored from first when Brett Phillips lined a two-out single to center. Evan Grant, Dallas News, "Behind a rumbling, bumbling Randy Arozarena, Rays rally to tie World Series in Game 4 win," 25 Oct. 2020 Nick Castellanos followed two pitches later with a single to center to put runners on the corners with no outs. Bobby Nightengale, The Enquirer, "Dissecting the 22-inning scoreless streak that ended the Cincinnati Reds' season," 3 Oct. 2020 Avisaíl García led off the game with a soft single to center and was called safe on a steal of second base. Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Reds 6, Brewers 1: Combination of Cincinnati ace Trevor Bauer, home runs too much to overcome," 23 Sep. 2020 Seager tied it at 1 in the first with an RBI single and then led off the fifth with a drive to center off T.J. McFarland to extend LA's lead to 6-2. Joe Reedy, Star Tribune, "Dodgers clinch NL's top seed, West title with win over A's," 23 Sep. 2020 But Ozzie Albies ripped a run-scoring single to center and Riley doubled into the right-field corner on another two-strike pitch, bringing home two runs to put the Braves ahead 4-3. Paul Newberry,, "Marlins start well but lose 5-4 in Atlanta," 22 Sep. 2020 Alex Dickerson ripped a scoring single to center against the lefty called in to face him, Anthony Miesewicz. Henry Schulman,, "Giants overcome Yaz injury, Anderson ejection in comeback victory against M’s," 17 Sep. 2020 Similarly, Brown was a guard at SMU before switching to center his final two seasons. Scott Patsko, cleveland, "Do the Browns need to sign more guards now that 3 have opted out?," 7 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

10 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Center.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 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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