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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Mary Beth and John Tinker, the siblings at the center of the 1969 case, also are on Levy's side. Mark Sherman, ajc, "Student's Snapchat profanity leads to high court speech case," 26 Apr. 2021 Among those who found themselves at the center of the excitement on April 29, 2011 were the team at Westminster Abbey, and some have shared their recollections with T&C 10 years on. Victoria Murphy, Town & Country, "What It Was Really Like to be Part of Prince William and Kate Middleton's Wedding," 25 Apr. 2021 At the center of the storm — stoked by state media and officials after a year-old statement on the subject resurfaced on Chinese social media — H&M, has now vowed to earn back the support of Chinese consumers. NBC News, "Western brands tested by China amid forced labor allegation backlash," 25 Apr. 2021 Minari was a film that hit me with the whole spectrum of emotions and her performance was at the center of most of that. Angie Orellana Hernandez, Los Angeles Times, "‘Mr. Brad Pitt, finally’: Yuh-Jung Youn celebrates Oscar win with charming speech," 25 Apr. 2021 The man at the center of this clash is a 50-year-old programmer who prefers an office uniform of cargo pants and T-shirts. Tim Higgins, WSJ, "Fortnite’s Mastermind Goes to Battle With Apple," 24 Apr. 2021 Meanwhile, Flores’ other concept, Tex Mex restaurant Muchacho, will open at the center either the first or second week of June, Barth said, in the former spot of burger bar Snuffers. Anna Caplan, Dallas News, "Southlake restaurant news: Whistle Britches opening delayed, Johnny B’s closes and a new wine bar," 23 Apr. 2021 At the center of these rulings was the justices’ conclusion that the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment treats children differently than adults. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Blame Anthony Kennedy for the Supreme Court’s Mangled Ruling on Juvenile Life Without Parole," 23 Apr. 2021 At the center of it all was Brownsell’s unparalleled skill with pigments. Molly Creeden, Vogue, "Hold On To Your Hair Dye: Bleach London Is Coming to America!," 23 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Bowness moved Benn to center on April 8 in Chicago, and the Stars captain has thrived in the middle. Matthew Defranks, Dallas News, "Believe it or not, the Dallas Stars are back in the playoff hunt. Here are 5 reasons why," 25 Apr. 2021 Much of the attention at the hearing, however, is expected to center on Jackson, a former Breyer law clerk and public defender who was also an Obama nominee on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Washington Post, "Senate committee to take up Biden judicial nominees in preview of potential Supreme Court fight," 23 Apr. 2021 Alex Dickerson got the Giants started with a homer to center on a first-inning 3-2 fastball from Germán Márquez. Susan Slusser, San Francisco Chronicle, "Anthony DeSclafani provides pivotal strikeouts as Giants sweep Rockies," 11 Apr. 2021 Much of the anger continues to center on JAMA’s promotional tweet for the podcast declaring that no physician is racist. Usha Lee Mcfarling, STAT, "Troubling podcast puts JAMA, the ‘voice of medicine,’ under fire for its mishandling of race," 9 Apr. 2021 Dail got through the fourth giving up a two-out single but ended the frame by getting a fly out to center on a 3-2 count. oregonlive, "In first start in 26 days, Jordan Dail combines for shutout at No. 3 Oregon softball completes sweep of LMU," 27 Mar. 2021 At first, the premise of the show appears to center on Jonah (Ben Feldman), a business-school washout who takes a job at a giant retail store, Cloud 9, presumably a stand-in for Walmart. Kovie Biakolo, Vulture, "Farewell to Superstore, a Show That Got Representation Right," 24 Mar. 2021 Biden’s proposal is expected to center on infrastructure spending, with hundreds of billions of dollars to repair the nation’s roads, bridges, waterways and rails. Anchorage Daily News, "White House prepares infrastructure bill with universal pre-K, free community college, climate measures," 22 Mar. 2021 The problem seems to center on a massive PSLF application backlog with the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid office. Adam S. Minsky, Forbes, "Borrowers Face Huge Delays Applying For Student Loan Forgiveness Program," 11 Mar. 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.

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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

28 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Center.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
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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 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

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