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 center (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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from center


centerless \ ˈsen-​tər-​ləs How to pronounce center (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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Cut a circle in the center of the cardboard that matches the diameter of the fan. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, 16 Sep. 2021 Imari Paris Jeffries is the executive director of King Boston, an organization that is building a memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the center of the city. Washington Post, 16 Sep. 2021 The hurricane center said that additional rainfall amounts of 3 to 6 inches are anticipated over south-central to southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle through Friday. Julia Musto, Fox News, 15 Sep. 2021 The hurricane center expects that to happen in a day or two. Leigh Morgan, al, 15 Sep. 2021 As La Linda and William reach their fingers out to touch in that final shot, the camera is placed to capture the glass in the center of the frame that separates them, and the image seems to freeze on their fingers as the credits begin to roll. Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times, 15 Sep. 2021 The band channeled palpable chemistry into the set, with the members gathering in the center to jam out a song or Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek locking eyes during a vocal harmony. Justin Curto, Vulture, 14 Sep. 2021 Weakening was anticipated Tuesday and Wednesday as the storm moves over land, the center said. Laura L. Davis, USA TODAY, 13 Sep. 2021 An automated station in Matagorda Bay registered a sustained wind of 55 mph (89 kph) with a gust of 71 mph (115 kph), the hurricane center reported. Juan A. Lozano, Chron, 13 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Austin Blythe signed a free-agent contract with the Kansas City Chiefs, and McVay’s preseason experiment of moving Austin Corbett to center did not pan out. Gary Klein Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 7 Sep. 2021 Even the stadium's dimensions, 335 feet down the left and right field lines and 400 feet to center, are similar. Tommy Birch, USA TODAY, 13 Aug. 2021 Janie Reed tripled to right center with one out in the U.S. home first but was thrown out trying to score on a strike out/wild pitch. Jeff Metcalfe, The Arizona Republic, 29 July 2021 Luis Torrens followed with a hard grounder to score France, and Tom Murphy capped the rally when his blooper to center dropped despite Ramon Laureano's diving attempt. Tim Booth, Star Tribune, 25 July 2021 The next pitch, Chance Retherford flew out to center for the final out in the Little League World Series. Alex Harrison, The Enquirer, 29 Aug. 2021 Fortner, the former starter at right guard, is moving to center for his last season of college football. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, 27 Aug. 2021 This is the ability for women to own themselves, to take into account their agency, their desire to center pleasure for themselves. Ben Flanagan |, al, 26 Aug. 2021 Woodruff then hung a 2-2 curveball over the middle of the plate to Tyler O’Neill, who did not miss it, crushing it 450 feet to center for a three-run homer and a 5-4 lead. Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 19 Aug. 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About center

Time Traveler for center

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near center

centennial brown


center back

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for center

Last Updated

19 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Center.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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 center (audio) \

Medical Definition of center

: a group of nerve cells having a common function the brain stem's respiratory center

called also nerve center

More from Merriam-Webster on center

Nglish: Translation of center for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of center for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!