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 centering (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 centerless (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 Many of Nifla’s member centers are religious, as are the other two plaintiffs in the suit against New York—CompassCare pregnancy services and First Bible Baptist Church. Nicole Ault, WSJ, "New York Tries Again to Muzzle Pro-Life Groups," 17 Jan. 2020 But late last year the highly respected institution Johns Hopkins University—the U.S.’s oldest research university—launched a dedicated center for psychedelic studies, the first of its kind in the country and perhaps the world’s largest. Tanya Lewis, Scientific American, "Johns Hopkins Scientists Give Psychedelics the Serious Treatment," 16 Jan. 2020 During the tour, the team convinced three homeless people to take a bed in the center. Dominic Fracassa,, "S.F. mayor poised to meet 1,000-shelter-bed goal with deal for Navigation Center," 15 Jan. 2020 The collapse took place on a busy main street in the city center of Xining, the provincial capital and largest city in the far northwestern province of Qinghai. Nectar Gan, CNN, "Enormous sinkhole swallows bus and passengers in China, killing at least 6 people," 14 Jan. 2020 Polling was used to determine where the participants will stand on stage, with the best-polling candidates in the center and the lower polling candidates fanning out to the sides. Dareh Gregorian, NBC News, "January Democratic debate: Everything you need to know," 14 Jan. 2020 Saudi Arabia’s capital of Riyadh is clearly visible in the center of the country. Daniel Wolfe, Quartz, "Where nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300-times stronger than CO2, is being emitted," 14 Jan. 2020 Fold the top of the fabric over the cushion, and staple it once in the center. Country Living Staff, Country Living, "How To Reupholster a Chair so It Looks Just as Pretty As When You Bought It," 10 Jan. 2020 So is a large park in the center of the city, just outside the French Quarter. Nicholas Frankovich, National Review, "Satchmo’s Smile," 9 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Addressing a global conference in the Indian capital to discuss the most challenging issues facing the world community, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Asia-Pacific cooperation until now was centered on Southeast Asia. Washington Post, "Russia says US Indo-Pacific strategy is to contain China," 15 Jan. 2020 The largest of these, centered on the Pebble mine debate, seems ill-informed about that situation. Nancy Lord, Anchorage Daily News, "How one man’s passion for fly-fishing led to protecting Russian salmon rivers," 12 Jan. 2020 The Dallas Fed study focused on the short-term impact of the tax cuts, but much of the criticism of the law centers on its long-term effects. Dallas News, "The rich get richer: Trump’s tax cuts have boosted Texas and its high earners," 7 Jan. 2020 Some inside the prison told Skinner-Holmes to check in on her son, who is housed in Unit 29, where much of the violence has centered. Luke Ramseth, USA TODAY, "'Gangs are at war': Fifth Mississippi prison death reported as violence continues," 3 Jan. 2020 Schofield and Blake are stoic protagonists, and though MacKay does particularly well shouldering the burden of having the action constantly centered on him, there isn’t a lot of depth to either soldier. David Sims, The Atlantic, "1917 Is a Visual Feat. That Doesn’t Mean It’s a Good Movie.," 3 Jan. 2020 Biden, stressing at every stop his work with former president Obama, has centered his campaign on his claim to having the best shot of beating President Trump., "But Buttigieg struggles to win over the young. That’s Bernie country. The oldest candidate in the race, the determinedly crotchety 78-year-old Senator Sanders, is a hit with the youngest voters tracking the 2020 campaign.," 15 Dec. 2019 The report comes as Trump faces an impeachment inquiry in Congress centered on his efforts to press Ukraine to investigate a political rival, Democrat Joe Biden — a probe the president also claims is politically biased. Eric Tucker And Michael Balsamo,, "Highly anticipated watchdog report on Russia investigation to be released today," 9 Dec. 2019 Government officials have cast the demonstrations as primarily centered on economic issues, arguing that vast inequality in Hong Kong has exacerbated anger among the city’s youth. Javier C. Hernández, New York Times, "Hong Kong Protest, Largest in Weeks, Stretches Several Miles," 7 Dec. 2019

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

20 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Center.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 23 January 2020.

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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 centre (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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More from Merriam-Webster on center

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for center

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with center

Spanish Central: Translation of center

Nglish: Translation of center for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of center for Arabic Speakers

Comments on center

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


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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