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

At first, he and his son were placed together in detention at a center in McAllen, a city in Texas near the border with Mexico that has a large facility housing separated immigrant children. Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press, "Immigrant dad separated from son in Michigan: 'A pain in my heart'," 14 July 2018 The wife of a late United Auto Workers union official received an 18-month prison sentence Friday as part of a federal corruption investigation at a training center run by the union and automaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Dom Calicchio, Fox News, "Widow of union official led 'high-flying lifestyle' on cash meant to train autoworkers: prosecutor," 14 July 2018 Toxic everyday products A full 93 percent of the 2.2 million poison exposures reported to poison control centers in 2016 took place inside the home. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "Emergency Responders Share 9 of the Biggest Death Traps in Your Home," 14 July 2018 Karow helped the company develop and expand its Health Nucleus, a testing center that provides customers very detailed readouts of their present health, potential for diseases later on, and strategies to preserve health. Bradley J. Fikes,, "Human Longevity names interim CEO," 13 July 2018 In addition to Knox, second round pick Mitchell Robinson has looked intriguing as a freakishly athletic center flashing potential all over the floor. Andrew Sharp,, "Kevin Knox, Wendell Carter Jr., and Midsummer Hope for the Knicks and Bulls," 13 July 2018 Nunez blooped another one into center in the sixth that Deshields dove for. Hartford Courant,, "Sale Helps Red Sox Win Ninth Straight, 4-2 Over Texas," 12 July 2018 In its day, the ancient city of Teotihuacan was the largest urban center in the Americas — and the sixth-largest city in the world. Carolina A. Miranda,, "Datebook: Shots of old Route 66, dreamlike paintings and garments fashioned from paper," 12 July 2018 Indiana returns every relevant contributor from the 2017 rotation, adds a graduate transfer center in Nick Linder and got healthy in the offseason. Zach Osterman, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: 5 burning questions facing IU football in 2018," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Then came a trend embraced the world over, along with the subsequent mania for Jenner's first round of Kylie Cosmetics, which centered on her ubiquitous (and often sold out) Lip Kits. Calin Van Paris, Vogue, "Kylie Jenner Says No to Lip Filler on Instagram—and Yes to a Bold New Look," 9 July 2018 On Monday, much of the conversation centered on the process of co-writing the novel. Jasper Scherer, San Antonio Express-News, "Bill Clinton talks politics and cybersecurity in S.A. appearance," 11 June 2018 Pilot Assist’s lane-centering is not as smooth and unobtrusive as Nissan’s Pro Pilot Plus. Mark Phelan, USA TODAY, "Review: Volvo loads up XC40 compact SUV with nifty features," 8 June 2018 The more distinctive the eyebrow—in terms of grooming and thickness—the more self-centered the participant had scored on their NPI test. Chloe Metzger, Marie Claire, "Got Big Brows? Science Says You’re Probably a Narcissist," 7 June 2018 This is in keeping with the contempt for internationalism that forms a core principle of Trump’s self-centered, jingoistic ideology, which the GOP has with few exceptions wholeheartedly embraced. Jonah Shepp, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump’s Credibility Problem Is Now America’s," 26 May 2018 Although the writing life can be very isolating and at times self-centering, my debut book has only reaffirmed my place as my parents’ daughter. Morgan Jerkins, Longreads, "But What Will Your Parents Think?," 10 May 2018 Settlers Crossing, as it's known, is run as a profitable bed-and-breakfast, centered around a Federal-style home dating back to the 1790s and perfectly perched on 35 sprawling acres. Elizabeth Finkelstein, Country Living, "This Idyllic Texas B&B Is for Sale and We Want to Move Here Immediately," 27 Apr. 2018 The city has begun projects centering on new signage and streetscape beautification to bolster the downtown, officials said. Linda Girardi, Aurora Beacon-News, "Survey says Yorkville residents would like more restaurants, stores," 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

13 Oct 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).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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