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

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

Others are staying in evacuation centers in the nearby city of Chico. Umair Irfan, Vox, "The Paradise fire is catastrophic. And the wildfire threat to California is only growing.," 17 Nov. 2018 Restaurants are recruiting in senior centers and churches. Leslie Patton, The Seattle Times, "Senior citizens are replacing teenagers as fast-food workers," 13 Nov. 2018 In fact, Borderless centers around a secondary character from the first book, Diana. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Borderless shows us the tech-fueled nightmare that we’ve all created," 8 Nov. 2018 Still, three studies in three different centers have shown positive results — using somewhat different approaches. Rachel Becker, The Verge, "Spinal implants help treat paralysis but aren’t ready for primetime," 3 Nov. 2018 Because the stakes were so high and the world was so dangerous and people were dying left, right, and center. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "8 Questions That Need To Be Answered In 'Legacies' Season 1," 26 Oct. 2018 Randall tries yet again to get the city councilman to repair the rec center, reminding him that a lot of residents are counting on him. Emma Dibdin, Country Living, "'This Is Us' Recap: Jack and an Adult Kate Appeared Together for the First Time and It Was Emotional," 10 Oct. 2018 In those cases, a control center in Bremen, Germany, took over for as long as three consecutive days. Elizabeth Howell,, "Antarctica Greenhouse Produces Cucumbers, Tomatoes and More in Mars-Like Test," 24 Sep. 2018 Tapered edges gently fade into the longer strands, opening at the center, and framing the face, like on Camila Cabello, up top. Madisen Theobald, Allure, "The Top Global Hair Trends In 2018, According to Pinterest," 25 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The party quickly shifted to the left on immigration as Donald Trump launched a campaign centered on vicious anti-immigrant rhetoric and promises to remove all 11 million undocumented immigrants from the country. Margaret Hartmann, Daily Intelligencer, "‘Abolish ICE’: The Roots of the Left’s New Immigration Rallying Cry," 26 June 2018 One is a documentary centered on life after incarceration. Nicole Sperling, HWD, "The Filmmaker Who Discovered Jennifer Lawrence Has Found a New Star in Leave No Trace," 26 June 2018 For years, disagreements usually centered on the balance between resuscitating marshes without flooding farmland and nearby neighborhoods. Jenny Staletovich, miamiherald, "Could raising a 90-year-old road fix South Florida's water problems?," 18 June 2018 The case against Cosby centered on testimony from Constand, a former employee with Temple University women's basketball team. Nicole Chavez, CNN, "Bill Cosby replaces his defense team," 15 June 2018 In a split decision earlier this year, the state Supreme Court upheld the conviction and sentence after debate that centered on whether Schierman’s rights to a public trial were violated. Paige Cornwell, The Seattle Times, "List of inmates whose sentences are changed from death row to life in prison," 12 Oct. 2018 Pruitt was ensnared in a series of controversies that centered on lavish spending, ethical lapses and his management decisions. *** Text of Pruitt’s resignation letter to Trump: ‘‘Mr. Washington Post,, "Read EPA head Scott Pruitt’s resignation letter," 5 July 2018 Pruitt was ensnared in a series of controversies that centered on lavish spending, ethical lapses and his management decisions. Washington Post,, "Text of Scott Pruitt's resignation letter to Trump," 5 July 2018 Trump critics saw the inclusion of those two countries as a strategy to weaken legal challenges that centered on the claim that the ban unlawfully targeted a religious group that Trump had vowed to keep out of the country. Laurence Arnold,, "Who's Welcome (or Not) in U.S. After Trump Ban Upheld," 27 June 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

8 Dec 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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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).


living or existing for a long time

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