principal

adjective
prin·​ci·​pal | \ ˈprin(t)-s(ə-)pəl How to pronounce principal (audio) , -sə-bəl\

Definition of principal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : most important, consequential, or influential : chief the principal ingredient the region's principal city
2 : of, relating to, or constituting principal or a principal (see principal entry 2)

principal

noun
prin·​ci·​pal | \ ˈprin(t)-s(ə-)pəl How to pronounce principal (audio) , -sə-bəl\

Definition of principal (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a person who has controlling authority or is in a leading position: such as
a : a chief or head man or woman
b : the chief executive officer of an educational institution
c : one who engages another to act as an agent subject to general control and instruction specifically : the person from whom an agent's authority derives
d : the chief or an actual participant in a crime
e : the person primarily or ultimately liable on a legal obligation
f : a leading performer : star
2 : a matter or thing of primary importance: such as
a(1) : a capital sum earning interest, due as a debt, or used as a fund
(2) : the corpus of an estate, portion, devise, or bequest
b : the construction that gives shape and strength to a roof and is usually one of several trusses broadly : the most important member of a piece of framing

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Other Words from principal

Adjective

principally \ ˈprin(t)-​sə-​p(ə-​)lē How to pronounce principally (audio) , -​sə-​bə-​lē , -​splē \ adverb

Noun

principalship \ ˈprin(t)-​s(ə-​)pəl-​ˌship How to pronounce principalship (audio) , -​sə-​bəl-​ \ noun

Principle vs. Principal: Usage Guide

Adjective

Although nearly every handbook and many dictionaries warn against confusing principle and principal, many people still do. Principle is only a noun; principal is both adjective and noun. If you are unsure which noun you want, read the definitions in this dictionary.

Principle vs. Principal: Usage Guide

Noun

Although nearly every handbook and many dictionaries warn against confusing principle and principal, many people still do. Principle is only a noun; principal is both adjective and noun. If you are unsure which noun you want, read the definitions in this dictionary.

Principle vs. Principal

Yes, these two words are confusing; we see evidence of the misuse of both in newspapers and books which have been overseen by professional editors, so don’t feel bad if you have trouble with them. Principle only functions as a noun (such as “a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption”); if you want it to be an adjective you must use the word principled. Principal, on the other hand, may function as a noun (such as the head of a school) or as an adjective (meaning “most important”). 

Examples of principal in a Sentence

Adjective

If any suspect that Griswold was exaggerating, they should reflect on the fact that the principal Supreme Court case justifying the invocation of the national security privilege was based on a governmental lie. — Garry Wills, New York Review of Books, 12 Feb. 2009 Following the agreement, the four principal tobacco companies—Philip Morris, R. J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, and Lorillard—raised their prices more than 45 cents per pack. The costs of the settlement, as predicted, were passed on to consumers. — Allan M. Brandt, The Cigarette Century, 2007 Their principal industry was the manufacture, in a long, low, mostly-wooden, two-story factory, of cold cream. — Frederick Busch, Too Late American Boyhood Blues, 1984 Vegetables are the principal ingredients in this soup. She is the principal cellist of the orchestra.

Noun

the new high school principal One of the principals in the assassination plot has been arrested.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Jonathan Stafford, a ballet master and former principal dancer with the company, has been named its artistic director, company officials announced Thursday. Charles Passy, WSJ, "New York City Ballet Picks New Director in Wake of Scandal," 28 Feb. 2019 There are three principal figures who claim to have invented the machine Collier’s enthused about—and who fought each other for the credit, through battles waged in, primarily, the American media. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "The Lie Detector in the Age of Alternative Facts," 29 Mar. 2018 Karl had already graduated to the building’s magnificent principal block from an only faintly less magnificent set of rooms in an adjoining wing. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, "Hamish Bowles Remembers the Unparalleled Energy, Wicked Wit, and Insatiable Curiosity of Karl Lagerfeld," 20 Feb. 2019 The test can be performed using vaginal, endocervical, or urethral swab, as well as a urine sample, Damon Getman, Ph.D., senior principal research scientist and director of research at Hologic, tells SELF. Claire Gillespie, SELF, "The FDA Just Approved the First Test for Mycoplasma Genitalium, a Commonly Misdiagnosed STI," 1 Feb. 2019 But for Shahab Karmely—owner and CEO of KAR Properties and the principal developer of the boutique property 2000 Ocean—luxury means more than just a high-rise plopped down on a private beach. Samantha Swenson, ELLE Decor, "Just Outside Miami, New Development 2000 Ocean Is Redefining Luxury, One Minotti Furnishing at a Time," 18 Jan. 2019 Many have seen New York City Ballet’s principal dancer Tiler Peck sashay across the stages of Lincoln Center, Broadway, and beyond. Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "Tiler Peck and Roman Mejia Pas de Deux at a Benefit for the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation," 22 Jan. 2019 The current principal deputy press secretary is Raj Shah, but he is expected to leave the job soon, having helped shepherd the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and handling other special projects. Alex Leary, WSJ, "White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders Gets New Principal Deputy," 16 Nov. 2018 This morning, Kate paid a visit to the Royal Opera House to see how costumes are made, meet with principal dancers, and even sit in on a rehearsal. Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "Kate Middleton Twins With Meghan Markle and Princess Diana in Vibrant Purple," 16 Jan. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The principal, a very capable woman, then proclaimed there weren’t enough black faces in the group. WSJ, "How Identity Politics Admissions Hurts Most College Students," 14 Feb. 2019 Under a law passed after the shooting, districts can arm non-classroom employees such as principals, other administrators, custodians and librarians who undergo training. Terry Spencer, The Seattle Times, "Education unions oppose calls to arm teachers," 11 Feb. 2019 Sandra Oh has been many things throughout her career: a killer surgeon, an actual killer, a vice principal, a mom, a friend, a jilted bride, the list goes on. Megan Stein, Country Living, "Here's What Sandra Oh Said to Her Parents During Her Emotional Golden Globes Speech," 7 Jan. 2019 The Fosters Teri Polo and Sherri Saum play Stef and Lena, a cop and school vice principal, respectively, who are married and have four adopted kids and one of their own. Seventeen, "The 20 Greatest TV Teen Dramas of All Time," 4 Dec. 2018 Local support is critical in making a decision, said Dennis Donovan, who is a principal at Wadley Donovan Gutshaw Consulting LLC and has spent decades helping companies select sites for facilities across the country. Kristin Broughton, WSJ, "Amazon’s HQ2 Reversal Highlights Risks of Public Perception in Site Selection," 14 Feb. 2019 As a developer, Heidner has built Ricky Rockets gas stations, including one in Midlothian, and is a principal of Gold Rush Gaming, which operates video gambling terminals. Mike Nolan, Daily Southtown, "3 firms compete to develop state-owned site in Tinley Park," 13 July 2018 Coleman is an assistant principal at Nelson County High School and is pursuing a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Kentucky. The Courier-Journal, "Beshear and ICE protests: What you missed in Louisville this weekend," 9 July 2018 The bride, 30, is the founding principal of the Achievement First Bushwick Empower Elementary School, which serves students with disabilities in Brooklyn. New York Times, "Emily Salander, Felipe Maciá," 8 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'principal.' 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 principal

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for principal

Adjective and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin principalis, from princip-, princeps

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Statistics for principal

Last Updated

21 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for principal

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

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More Definitions for principal

principal

noun

Financial Definition of principal

What It Is

In finance,  principal refers to the face amount of a debt instrument or an amount of money borrowed.

How It Works

For example, if you borrow $25,000 from XYZ Bank to purchase a car, the principal balance is $25,000. As time goes by and you make payments on the loan, the principal balance goes down.

For bonds, principal generally refers to the bond's face value or the par value. Thus, a bond with a $10,000 face value represents a $10,000 loan to the issuer (i.e., $10,000 of principal). It is usually equal to the amount the bondholder receives on the bond's maturity date.

Why It Matters

Interest oThe definition of principal on InvestingAnswersn any loan, bond or not, typically accrues on the outstanding principal balance. That is, the lower the principal outstanding, the less total interest the lender earns.

Source: Investing Answers

principal

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of principal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: most important

principal

noun

English Language Learners Definition of principal (Entry 2 of 2)

US : the person in charge of a public school
British : the person in charge of a university or college
: an amount of money that is put in a bank or lent to someone and that can earn interest

principal

adjective
prin·​ci·​pal | \ ˈprin-sə-pəl How to pronounce principal (audio) \

Kids Definition of principal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: highest in rank or importance : chief My sister had the principal part in the school play.

Other Words from principal

principally adverb

principal

noun

Kids Definition of principal (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the head of a school
2 : a leading or most important person or thing
3 : a sum of money that is placed to earn interest, is owed as a debt, or is used as a fund

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principal

adjective
prin·​ci·​pal | \ ˈprin-sə-pəl How to pronounce principal (audio) \

Legal Definition of principal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : being the main or most important, consequential, or influential their principal place of business the principal obligor
2 : of, relating to, or constituting principal or a principal the principal amount of the loan

principal

noun

Legal Definition of principal (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a participant in an action or transaction especially having control or authority the principals of a business : as
a : one who engages another to act for him or her subject to his or her general control or instruction : one from whom an agent derives authority to act — compare fiduciary
b : one who commits a crime or instigates, encourages, or assists another to commit it especially when constructively or actually present — see also accessory sense 1
principal in the first degree
: a principal under common law who intentionally commits and is actually or constructively present at the commission of a crime
principal in the second degree
: a principal under common law who aids, encourages, or commands another to commit a crime and is actually or constructively present when it is committed
c : the person primarily liable on a legal obligation or one who will ultimately bear the burden because of a duty to indemnify another as distinguished from one (as an endorser, surety, or guarantor) who is secondarily liable
2 : a capital sum earning interest, due as a debt, or used as a fund shall receive the income from the trust until age 18, and thereafter the principal payments shall be applied first to interest and then to principal also : the main body of an estate, devise, or bequest

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Comments on principal

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