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 After Assembly members voiced concern that data did not back up the assertion that the trails were a center of crime or danger, the administration changed the wording to make them general officers, giving the police department more discretion. Aubrey Wieber, Anchorage Daily News, "Anchorage Assembly OKs $540M budget with boost in homeless services and more police," 21 Nov. 2019 Mrauk U was the center of their unique heritage, violently extinguished by the Burmese conquerors. Joshua Hammer, Smithsonian, "The Hidden City of Myanmar," 21 Nov. 2019 Dear Miss Manners: A popular lunchtime meal is soup in a bread bowl: a small, round loaf of sourdough bread that has its center carved out and filled with soup, often clam chowder. Judith Martin, Washington Post, "Miss Manners: Politely eating a bread bowl," 20 Nov. 2019 Today Amazon's robot ambitions extend far beyond its fulfillment centers. Matt Mcfarland, CNN, "Amazon wants to ship you anything in 30 minutes. It's going to need a lot of robots," 20 Nov. 2019 The senior quarterback lined up under center to go for it on fourth-and-1, the Spartans already trailing Michigan by 17 points. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State football's 4th-quarter breakdowns a big reason for downturn," 19 Nov. 2019 End stir-craziness with a simple but fun trip to Menard's or Stein's or your closest garden center. Amy Schwabe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "From downtown lights to Santa visits, here are 50 things to do to celebrate the holidays with your kids in Milwaukee," 18 Nov. 2019 Russian state media showed the Russian flag flying over what had been the center for U.S. operations against ISIS in the region, CBS News reported Saturday. Fox News, "Russian troops take over abandoned US airbase in northern Syria: report," 18 Nov. 2019 After missing the last eight games, the Pacers will get their center back tonight just in time to face the reigning MVP, the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo. Nathan Brown, Indianapolis Star, "Myles Turner to return after missing eight games, Malcolm Brogdon out against Bucks," 16 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb And if this entire series has centered on the idea of bringing balance to the Force, doesn’t that mean that this story never, really, can end? Eliana Dockterman, Time, "The Biggest Questions Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Needs to Answer," 23 Nov. 2019 Since the celebration is centered on food, purchasing the necessary tools ahead of time is fundamental. Camila Vallejo,, "Looking to host the perfect Friendsgiving? Local experts share advice on how to plan, what to make and where to go," 22 Nov. 2019 Also on the main floor is the kitchen, which is centered around a massive white-stone island. Hannah Chubb,, "Katie Holmes Lists Her Calabasas Estate for $4.6 Million 6 Months After Split from Jamie Foxx," 21 Nov. 2019 Ovum analyst Daniel Gleeson is similarly surprised by Apple's event decision, but says the move could center on boosting Apple Arcade, the game-streaming service Apple released earlier this year. Don Reisinger, Fortune, "Apple Is Staging a December Press Event, But Its Products Won’t Be in the Spotlight," 19 Nov. 2019 Indiana -- a Big Ten school with a fan base centered along the I-65 corridor between Chicago and Nashville and energized by the program’s best season in more than a decade -- holds understandable appeal. Zach Osterman, Indianapolis Star, "IU football gets major interest from Music City Bowl," 19 Nov. 2019 Ward off gloom and nagging concerns by centering your thoughts on happy news and uplifting subjects. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, "Horoscope for Nov. 18, 2019: Gemini, you’ll find it hard to get your point across; Virgo, spend some money," 18 Nov. 2019 The 2019 telecast producers shared a background in TV and film: Weiss’ career is centered in television and live events while Gigliotti is a prolific film producer. Katie Kilkenny, The Hollywood Reporter, "Lynette Howell Taylor and Stephanie Allain Tapped to Produce 92nd Oscars," 15 Nov. 2019 After all, the musical is centered on the life of Princess Diana—a woman who still dominates headlines more than two decades after her passing, and is frequently mentioned in comparison to her daughter-in-law, Meghan Markle. Rachel Epstein, Marie Claire, "'Diana: A New Musical' Is Coming to Broadway—See the First Official Cast Photo," 13 Nov. 2019

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

24 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Center.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 6 December 2019.

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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

Comments on center

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very cautious or careful

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