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

But the principal conflicts here are between the traditional and transgressive, the slim and the plump, the mother and daughter. John Anderson, WSJ, "‘Dumplin’ Review: A Body-Image Saga With Some Good Twists," 6 Dec. 2018 If all goes to plan, Mogensen would remain a principal investor. Katherine Lagrave, Condé Nast Traveler, "Is Wow Air—and Its $99 Flights—Going Away?," 30 Nov. 2018 Yoichi is located on Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's four principal islands and sits at about the same latitude as Toronto. Sam Dangremond, Town & Country, "Why You Should Be Drinking Japanese Whiskey Now," 15 Nov. 2018 The property records show Cox has paid about half his annual property taxes on the three-bedroom, four-bathroom home and has claimed it as his principal residence on state property tax records each year since. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Dems opt to stick it out with Pelosi," 28 Sep. 2018 Mandolesi is principal investigator of the Low Frequency Instrument (LFI), one of Planck's two science instruments. Mike Wall, Space.com, "Observations of the Early Universe Reaffirm the Existence of Dark Matter and Dark Energy," 18 July 2018 The opera, which originally cost $3.2 million to produce, consists of eight principal singers, 51 chorus members, 20 supers, two children, 234 costumes and 64 orchestral musicians. 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 In the last movement, Bell and CSO principal cellist John Sharp dovetailed each other’s phrases with comparable fervor. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "CSO at Ravinia review: Marin Alsop poetically launches Bernstein tribute," 13 July 2018 The group received principal funding from the Action Now Initiative, an advocacy organization founded by hedge fund manager John Arnold and his wife Laura. NBC News, "Group pledges millions to attack candidates over drug prices," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Then, two years into her lab studies, the principal investigator on her project left. Shelley Levitt, Woman's Day, "These 4 Inspirational Women Went to Great Lengths for Their Kids," 4 Dec. 2018 There’s nothing more precious than our students,’’ said Tom Alf, a former Hamilton High School principal who now sits on the school board. Sue Kiesewetter, Cincinnati.com, "Hamilton Schools staff can be armed," 29 June 2018 Musk started the school after pulling all of his sons out of Los Angeles private schools and hired one of his son’s teachers to act as its principal. Don Reisinger, Fortune, "Inside Elon Musk's Ad Astra School Where Grades and Traditional Classes Don't Exist," 26 June 2018 The graduates heard from valedictorian Jason Woods, salutatorian Illario Ercole, their principal and William Malesh, a member of the Cecil County Board of Education. David Anderson, The Aegis, "Perryville High student's 'spirit will live with us,' Class of 2018 president says," 11 June 2018 Students who met academic growth targets in the areas of math and reading got an unusual reward from Andrew Cooke Magnet School principal Stephanie Jensen in Waukegan on Friday. Yadira Sanchez Olson, Lake County News-Sun, "Waukegan students celebrate hitting academic goals by hitting principal with pies," 1 June 2018 West Middle School principal Stacey Swan and Noblesville Schools superintendent Beth Niedermeyer will also participate in the news conference Monday. John Tuohy, Indianapolis Star, "Noblesville school shooting 'hero' teacher to speak Monday," 27 May 2018 During the Thursday open house, a number of former Longwood School principals visited the school as well as staff members from across the decades. Suzanne Baker, Naperville Sun, "Pencils, Sears catalog unearthed in Naperville school's time capsule," 25 May 2018 Late in the second season of 13 Reasons Why, Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) has an altercation with his school principal, Mr. Bolan (Steven Weber). Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "13 Reasons Why Tries Again," 17 May 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

12 Dec 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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