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

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

Frank Murtha, Major League Football’s principal executive officer, bid on behalf of his league. Patrick Danner, ExpressNews.com, "Bankrupt football league’s gear sold at San Antonio court auction," 3 July 2019 So many of us in today's Dallas art world have forgotten the formative phase of our beloved museum, a phase of which Lunsford was the principal curatorial force. Dallas News, "Appreciating John Lunsford, key in spurring Dallas Museum of Art's global reach," 3 July 2019 Headquartered in Perth, Australia but with its principal offices in Houston, LNG Limited is still waiting on its first supply contracts and a final investment decision on the Magnolia LNG project. Sergio Chapa, Houston Chronicle, "Efforts to boost production capacity at Magnolia LNG take step forward," 11 June 2019 An officer escorted the family to the vice principal’s office at Jordan Middle School, authorities said. Crystal Hill, star-telegram, "Dad who says girl bullied his daughter attacked her in bathroom, Texas cops say | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 20 Mar. 2018 But about 10 minutes in, Besse was escorted by a security guard into the vice principal’s office. Rose Minutaglio, Seventeen, "I Was Suspended From School For Walking Out To Support Gun Control," 15 Mar. 2018 The commemoration will also include a 100th birthday party for Jane Trussell, former teacher, principal and superintendent of the little school. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Boys & Girls Club receives grant for Center for Innovation programs," 22 June 2019 The district’s total debt service -- both principal and interest -- is currently $5.3 billion. Corbett Smith, Dallas News, "Dallas ISD may ask voters for $2.5 billion for its aging schools," 21 June 2019 The president also spoke with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman about Iran on Friday, according to principal deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley. Kathryn Watson, CBS News, ""Cocked and loaded" to strike Iran, Trump says he called off operation when told 150 would likely die," 21 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Suddenly, a band that had spent the past 40 years refusing to die was reminded that its principals most certainly will. Chris Richards, Washington Post, "The Rolling Stones want to teach you how to live forever," 4 July 2019 The judge who oversaw his original trial, his appellate lawyer, one of the jurors who convicted him and his elementary school principal — now a Maryland state senator — packed the Hilltop home. Elise Schmelzer, The Denver Post, "Curtis Brooks, sentenced to die in prison at age 17, is free after 24 years behind bars," 2 July 2019 The state of Uttar Pradesh declared a mining ban until its rivers can recharge their sandy principal. Paul Salopek, National Geographic, "Inside the deadly world of India’s sand mining mafia," 26 June 2019 Our principal, Charlie Heintz, is a great supporter of athletics. Jon J. Kerr, chicagotribune.com, "Q&A: Loyola athletic director Genevieve Atwood on the state of Ramblers sports," 24 June 2019 Their principal objected and the incident went viral, causing people to examine Rossi’s previous results. David Wharton, latimes.com, "Is this 70-year-old marathon runner from East L.A. a record setter or a cheater?," 21 June 2019 Carlton Jenkins, who taught at Beloit Memorial High School in the 1980s and later became its principal, told the paper. The Washington Post, The Mercury News, "Meet Dr. Marijuana Pepsi. She wrote her dissertation on unusual names instead of changing hers.," 21 June 2019 The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants: Season 3 (Netflix Family) Fourth-grade friends George and Harold love pranks, comic books and turning their principal into an undies-wearing superhero. Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY, "Netflix list for July 2019: Everything new and expiring," 19 June 2019 This is a crisis if America will remain America in its actual principals and values. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: "The U.S. is running concentration camps on our southern border"," 18 June 2019

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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Learn More about principal

Statistics for principal

Last Updated

11 Jul 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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