principal

adjective
prin·ci·pal | \ˈprin(t)-s(ə-)pəl, -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, -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, -sə-bə-lē, -splē \ adverb

Noun

principalship \ˈprin(t)-s(ə-)pəl-ˌship, -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

Brunt, who taught O’Flynn and was principal when She’Nyah attended school, moved here in 1983 from the Fuller Park neighborhood of Chicago. Peter Nickeas, chicagotribune.com, "A small Michigan town mourns a 12-year-old girl slain in Chicago: 'She’s here with us'," 3 July 2018 Priola is now principal at Boyet Junior High School in Slidell. Bob Warren, NOLA.com, "5 St. Tammany Parish schools getting new principals," 17 Apr. 2018 On the same day that the startup announced the fundraise, Ripple plunged 46% to near 90 cents, meaning that the principal investment amount no longer held the same value. Polina Marinova, Fortune, "Term Sheet -- Wednesday, April 11," 11 Apr. 2018 The principal amount of the district's total outstanding debt totals $944,361,940 as of Dec. 31, 2017, according to agenda documents. Kristi Nix, Houston Chronicle, "Bond Oversight Committee provides update for Fort Bend ISD trustees," 26 Feb. 2018 In this case, that included the Union-Tribune’s coverage of Marten’s tenure as superintendent, as well as her time as principal at Central Elementary, a school in City Heights. Peter Rowe, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Back story: Cindy Marten, a school superintendent carrying a heavy load," 8 July 2018 Notably, Head Over Heels will also mark the big stage debut of RuPaul’s Drag Race fan favorite Peppermint, who is set to become the first transgender woman to originate a principal role on Broadway. Zack Ruskin, Billboard, "The Go-Go's & 'Drag Race' Star Peppermint Discuss Gender-Bending 'Head Over Heels' Musical," 13 Apr. 2018 In the principal roles, though, Jones, Katherine Bellantone, Robert Williams, and Ashley J. Hicks go an awful long way toward forestalling the inevitable. Tony Adler, Chicago Reader, "L'Imitation of Life gives an old-fashioned 'women’s picture' an old-fashioned drag treatment," 11 Apr. 2018 By default, payments are set so the whole principal and interest, which is tied to the market rate at the time the loan is made (currently 4.45 percent), will be paid off in equal monthly installments paid over 10 years. Matthew Chingos, New York Times, "An International Final Four: Which Country Handles Student Debt Best?," 2 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Melody Square’s principals include Rick Heidner, of Heidner Property Management, and David Dorgan, who served as Tinley Park’s village manager from 1991 until 2003. Mike Nolan, Daily Southtown, "3 firms compete to develop state-owned site in Tinley Park," 13 July 2018 On May 24, swastikas and racial epithets, including one that Howard County police said targeted the school’s African-American principal, were found painted on school campus sidewalks, outside walls and the parking lot. Jess Nocera, Howard County Times, "Grand jury indicts teens accused of hate crimes at Glenelg High School," 13 July 2018 The Mendelssohn score, Songs Without Words, was gorgeously played live at the side of the stage by Pennsylvania Ballet principal pianist Martha Koeneman. Ellen Dunkel, Philly.com, "BalletX heats up the summer with 3 premieres and live music," 12 July 2018 The salaries for principals in that town start around $114,000 a year. Daniel Duane, WIRED, "How the Startup Mentality Failed Kids in San Francisco," 28 June 2018 Most of the principals are from the original production in Canada, but the volunteer chorus and supers (extras) are made up of many Cincinnati natives. Madeline Mitchell, Cincinnati.com, "Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' was turned into an opera and it's making its American debut in Cincinnati," 13 July 2018 None of the principals on either team — Melvin and executives Billy Beane and David Forst for the A’s, manager Bruce Bochy and executives Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans for the Giants — has a contract beyond next season. Ann Killion, SFChronicle.com, "Giants, A’s enter Bay Bridge Series on the rise," 12 July 2018 Ventura is one of the principals in the controversial Maya Energy material recycling facility on West 35th Avenue in Gary that’s awaiting word from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management on its bid for an air quality permit. Carole Carlson, Post-Tribune, "Lake Station council nixes food waste recycling project," 29 June 2018 Image Samit Chevli, 43, is a principal investigator at DuPont, a division of DowDuPont in Wilmington, Del. New York Times, "A Scientist With a Deep Love of Textile Mills," 22 June 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

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

Noun

see principal entry 1

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Statistics for principal

Last Updated

17 Oct 2018

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)

: the person in charge of a public school

: 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 \

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 \

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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