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


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.


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

Hundreds of rebellious police personnel seized control of their national command center on the edge of Mexico City on Wednesday and were still holed up there a day later. Washington Post, "Mexico’s AMLO struggles to contain police uprising," 5 July 2019 Intel has acquired several companies that make specialized chips to run AI software, but faces competition from Nvidia, whose GPUs have become an AI standard; Google and Amazon also are designing their own AI chips for use in their data centers. Tom Simonite, WIRED, "Intel's New Chip Wizard Has a Plan to Bring Back the Magic," 3 July 2019 In an offensive system predicated on ball movement, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr wants his center to be a fulcrum of sorts. Connor Letourneau,, "Why Willie Cauley-Stein was a high-value pickup for the Warriors," 3 July 2019 David Ortiz Moved from Dominican Republic to Boston to Receive Care for Gunshot Wound Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout also shared a touching tribute to his teammate Skaggs on Monday. Claudia Harmata,, "Giancarlo Stanton Shares Emotional Message to Los Angeles Angels After Tyler Skaggs' Death," 2 July 2019 The neighborhood was built with a one-square-block park at its center, a gift of the developer. Martina Schimitschek, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Bay Park & Morena: Mid-city oasis is close to Mission Bay and Tecolote Canyon park," 30 June 2019 The Yuma sector can hold around 400 migrants at its processing center and three stations; however, the facilities have been beyond capacity in recent months. Chelsea Curtis, azcentral, "Border Patrol officials unveil new Yuma facility designed to hold more migrants," 28 June 2019 Bobby Nightengale, Cincinnati Enquirer Two innings after Nick Senzel made a baserunning mistake that may have cost his team a run, the Cincinnati Reds’ rookie center fielder drilled a line drive into left field. Bobby Nightengale,, "Cincinnati Reds open homestand with win over Chicago Cubs, snapping a 4-game losing streak," 28 June 2019 Along with an ample dusting of bronzer—a requisite when your aesthetic centers on the assumption that the beach is always mere steps away—Emrata opted for a swirl of peachy blush. Calin Van Paris, Vogue, "Emily Ratajkowski Has a Surprising Trick to Achieve the Perfect Summer Glow," 27 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Much of it centers on expressing appreciation and making the veterans feel special. Caryn M. Sullivan, Twin Cities, "Caryn M. Sullivan: The heart and muscle behind Honor Flight Twin Cities," 4 July 2019 The court fight in Wisconsin centered on the maps that have been used since 2012. Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin Democrats drop gerrymandering case as Republicans say they may seek fees for taxpayers," 28 June 2019 The suit centers on Friday's board meeting, when half the board didn't show up in an attempt to stop the leasing of a building for a new peditrician's physicians group. David Jesse, Detroit Free Press, "Half of Wayne State University board sues other half," 27 June 2019 But most of the attention will center on Biden and his ability to weather the storm that is sure to come his way. Jonathan Allen, NBC News, "On Night Two, Biden is at the center of the debate storm," 27 June 2019 Scream‘s third season will center on high school football star Deion Elliot (RJ Cyler) as his tragic past comes back to haunt him and possibly ruin his bright future. Marcus Jones,, "The long-awaited Scream season 3 moves to VH1, gets a release date," 25 June 2019 But City Council discussions before the 10-3 vote then centered on concerns over the building’s sleek modern cement board exterior cladding. Graydon Megan,, "Developer will add more brick on 8-story Elmhurst tower — at a price," 25 June 2019 Most interest will center on how many on the 9-member panel back an increase. Fox News, "Bank of England set to keep rates on hold over Brexit unease," 20 June 2019 The smallest differences, meanwhile, centered on stereotypical behavior. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Your Cat’s Attitude Actually Is Closely Linked to Its Breed, Survey Shows," 19 June 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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Statistics for center

Last Updated

7 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for center

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

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More Definitions for center



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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with center

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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