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

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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The information centers on URLs shared by Facebook’s billions of users—specifically, the 38 million of these that were shared more than 100 times on Facebook between January 1, 2017, and July 31, 2019. Steven Levy, Wired, "The Social Network Becomes a Social Science Subject," 14 Feb. 2020 In addition to the casino, the facility would feature a hotel, water park, convention center, apartments and retail. Leon Stafford, ajc, "Stockbridge approves support for Hampton gambling referendum push," 13 Feb. 2020 The devices are used at local police stations and detention centers, not roadside, to test blood-alcohol levels in cases of suspected drunken driving. Darcie Moran, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan's alcohol breath testing equipment back online amid fraud investigation," 12 Feb. 2020 Juniper centers on a teenager (played by newcomer George Ferrier) who, after being suspended from his boarding school, arrives home to find that his grandmother (Rampling) has moved in. Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter, "Berlin: Charlotte Rampling to Star in Dark Comedy 'Juniper' (Exclusive)," 12 Feb. 2020 More changes Bonness Skincare, formerly called Bonness Body and Face Med Spa, will move to a larger location on the west side of the town center on Lord Street, next to Anthony Vince Nail Spa and Lash Lounge. Evan Casey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Changes coming to The Corners of Brookfield include a new Brooks Brothers, family lounge and mothers room," 11 Feb. 2020 Located a few miles north of Camelback Ranch ballpark inside Peoria’s Park West shopping center, Grimaldi’s is a family-friendly restaurant that specializes in brick-oven pizzas. azcentral, "5 restaurants near Dodgers and White Sox spring training games at Camelback Ranch," 10 Feb. 2020 The Democratic Party is divided against itself, left versus center-left. NBC News, "Meet the Press - February 9, 2020," 9 Feb. 2020 But the issue's ending won't remain a secret for long, since its spoiler element will be front-and-center on the second Darth Vader issue's cover. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "The next wild Star Wars twist has emerged in a Darth Vader comic," 8 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Located on Museum Row in downtown Louisville, the Muhammad Ali Center features exhibits centered on the champion boxer’s influential life and career. Washington Post, "Sites in Tennessee, Kentucky, added to Civil Rights Trail," 14 Feb. 2020 In what marked the 20th and final year of his career, all with the Lakers, Bryant made his 18th appearance, the second-most behind former Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Mark Medina, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Why this NBA All-Star Weekend will be unlike any other in history of sport," 14 Feb. 2020 Kenna made racist statements against black people and centered his life around researching and talking about terrorism, white supremacy and his knife collection, the associate told authorities. Eric Heisig, cleveland, "Cuyahoga Falls man obsessed with mass shootings plotted high school attack, called in hoax to Kansas elementary school, feds say," 14 Feb. 2020 Located on Museum Row in downtown Louisville, the Muhammad Ali Center features exhibits centered on the champion boxer’s influential life and career. Adrian Sainz, The Courier-Journal, "The Ali Center in Louisville is now part of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail," 14 Feb. 2020 But Jo, who wants to be a writer, rejects the idea that her life should center around finding a man to marry. Heather Finn, Good Housekeeping, "What Is 'Little Women' Really About? Here's a Look at All 6 Versions of the Movie," 9 Feb. 2020 China launches extreme measures to contain coronavirus in Wuhan China on Thursday stepped up measures to contain the rapid spread of the deadly coronavirus in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak is centered. Harold Maass, TheWeek, "February 7, 2020," 7 Feb. 2020 His motivation and consistency has often come under question, much of it centered over the fact that Wiggins was the No. Bruce Jenkins,, "Big win for Warriors? Trade with Timberwolves promising, but questions loom," 6 Feb. 2020 Tax breaks saved Hillsboro data centers $3.1 million in 2019 and $5.4 million the year before, according to state records. oregonlive, "Japanese company plans 47-acre data center on SolarWorld’s Hillsboro site," 6 Feb. 2020

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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Time Traveler for center

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for center

Last Updated

17 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Center.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for center


How to pronounce center (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for center

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with center

Spanish Central: Translation of center

Nglish: Translation of center for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of center for Arabic Speakers

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