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

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 At the time, Sytch was transported to a nearby medical center for treatment and released after authorities obtained a sample of her blood for their investigation, police said. Andy Rose, CNN, 7 May 2022 Adebayo had scored 24 and 23 points, respectively, in the first two games with Embiid out of the lineup and DeAndre Jordan starting at center for the 76ers. Tim Casey, Forbes, 7 May 2022 One, wearing a gray hoodie and camouflage pants, hurled seven Molotov cocktails into a local military recruiting center while the other recorded the incident — one of six recent arson attacks on Russian recruiting offices. Washington Post, 7 May 2022 On the court Clingan is a traditional back-to-the-basket center with elite passing ability. Shreyas Laddha, Hartford Courant, 7 May 2022 Two 18-year-old men from Chicago Heights were shot and one killed late Wednesday at a Matteson retail center, according to police. Mike Nolan, Chicago Tribune, 6 May 2022 At Travelers Aid Society, a homeless outreach and counseling center in New Orleans, more seniors are showing up. Rebekah Castor, Fox News, 6 May 2022 The cookies hit that textural sweet spot, with a crunchy exterior and a gooey center, and New Yorkers couldn’t get enough. Pamela Wright,, 6 May 2022 The company was required to spend at least $1 million to enhance efforts by a health center in Port Arthur, Texas, to diagnosis and treat asthma and other respiratory problems. Matthew Daly, Chron, 5 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb After drilling a 2-0 pitch from Rockies starter Aaron Cook to center with two outs and a runner on second, Biggio didn’t hesitate to turn at first and chug to second. Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press, 24 Apr. 2022 Her work seeks to center the intersections of art, music, and fashion with the realities and histories behind African culture. Ify Obi, Billboard, 24 Mar. 2022 Since sliding over to center with Allen’s absence, Mobley has hit the 20-point threshold in three of the last five games. Ashley Bastock, cleveland, 15 Mar. 2022 Lauer, a native of Northeast Ohio, didn’t give up a hit until Ryan Lavarnway singled to center with one out in the sixth., 12 Sep. 2021 After giving up a single and back-to-back walks, Gray induced a flyout to center against Brian Anderson with a first-pitch slider. Bobby Nightengale, The Enquirer, 21 Aug. 2021 Rasmussen didn’t allow a hit until Devers drove a double to center with two outs in the fourth, scoring Kiké Hernández after a leadoff walk. Doug Alden,, 13 Aug. 2021 Ortega then homered to center with two down to bump the margin to 5-1. Patrick Stevens, Star Tribune, 31 July 2021 Bridgerton is set to return for at least two more seasons, and a prequel, which will center on a young Queen Charlotte, Lady Danbury, and Lady Violet, is also in the works, but Gemmell is tight-lipped about both projects. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, 25 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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

Learn More About center

Time Traveler for center

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near center

centennial brown


center back

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Statistics for center

Last Updated

10 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Center.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for center


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


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