cen·ter | \ ˈsen-tər , 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 2b) 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

b : center field

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, 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 \-ləs \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for center

Synonyms: Noun

core, middle, midpoint, midst

Synonyms: Verb

centralize, compact, concenter, concentrate, consolidate, polarize, unify, unite

Antonyms: Noun

perimeter, periphery

Antonyms: Verb

decentralize, deconcentrate, spread (out)

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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

The center of action was in Martin Square at Ridge Road and Martin Avenue, near La Banque Hotel. Ted Slowik, Daily Southtown, "Slowik: Homewood takes spotlight on 'WGN Morning News' live block party broadcast," 13 July 2018 The center is part of the same tax increment financing district that includes the first phase of Chicago Premium Outlets mall and the corporate development along Bilter Road. Steve Lord, Aurora Beacon-News, "Aurora council approves final part of West Corporate Center," 13 July 2018 The shopping center was the ideal location for the restaurant because of the area’s limited competition in the Mexican food category, the owners said in a press release. Anna Muckerman,, "New restaurant Jose Tequilas Mexican Grill and Cantina coming to Owings Mills Square," 13 July 2018 The center of the emerging problem is that this yeast isn’t behaving like a yeast. Maryn Mckenna, WIRED, "The Strange and Curious Case of the Deadly Superbug Yeast," 13 July 2018 At the center of The Can of Anido is Maran (Xie Jia-hui), an old aboriginal farmer who spends his days silently cultivating his ailing crops and feeding himself with pintsized yam in his barren, rickety hut. Clarence Tsui, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Ten Years Taiwan': Film Review," 13 July 2018 Vasilj said the center was looking at getting an exemption to sell drinks earlier in the day. Tessa Weinberg,, "Chicago bars opening early for World Cup final, but law will keep drinks from flowing right away," 12 July 2018 Expect a whine from the center if someone has to sit there. Scott Sturgis,, "2018 Stelvio rounds out the Alfa Romeo lineup," 12 July 2018 The government’s disaster response center said the two were hit by falling tree limbs in the capital Taipei on Tuesday, as the medium-strength storm passed north of the mountainous island of 23 million people. Washington Post, "Typhoon Maria barrels into China after pounding Taiwan," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

While emotions centered on soccer vs. golf, some speakers questioned the land development proposal, which has only come to light in recent days and has not been clearly defined. Craig Davis,, "David Beckham, Jorge Mas encounter opposition in latest bid for Miami MLS stadium," 13 July 2018 Narloch will perform the 1981 masterpiece Triadic Memories, a meditative excursion that’s meticulously notated but centered on the way its chords and note patterns hang in the air and decay. Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader, "Two Chicago pianists perform a pair of rarely heard masterpieces by Morton Feldman," 12 July 2018 Debate during the hearing centered on whether Fallis intentionally fired at officers, and how much her troubled childhood and history of abusive adult relationships contributed to her frame of mind. Washington Post, "Woman gets prison for firing gun during pipeline protest," 11 July 2018 Life for the Irish in Corktown centered on Most Holy Trinity Church and school, where generations of Irish families worshiped and found education. John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press, "Here's what you might not know about Corktown's history," 9 July 2018 Politics made personal From the outside, Majok’s plays might seem centered on some of the biggest issues of our time — immigration, economic struggle, inequality. James Hebert,, "At La Jolla Playhouse, Pulitzer winner Martyna Majok's 'Queens' probes working-class lives," 5 July 2018 Those bitter years included urban riots, violence, bloodshed, bombings, kidnappings, shootouts and assassinations often centered on the Vietnam War or racial issues., "A long tradition: Americans behaving badly," 5 July 2018 The episode's group date — awkward, amoeba-like dates — centered on a debate. Rebecca Farley,, "The Bachelorette Wants To Have Its Cake & Be Political, Too," 3 July 2018 Both quarterbacks’ families were savvy enough to keep their guy out of a situation that would cost him a year of eligibility, so for much of this offseason the conversation centered on who would transfer before Alabama played its first game. Andy Staples,, "New Redshirt Rule Adds Intriguing Potential Twist to Alabama's QB Competition," 3 July 2018

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

1 Sep 2018

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 \

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 \

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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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).


alleviating pain or harshness

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