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 On the podium, DSO principal guest conductor Gemma New supplied athletic gymnastics, but not always to the music’s benefit. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, "An elegantly structured Dallas Symphony program, but performances weren’t the best," 7 Mar. 2020 His principal stylistic goal for his honey wines is to capture the essence of fresh and delicate flowers, with suggestions of earthiness, nuttiness and wood. Mike Dunne, SFChronicle.com, "For Ethiopian-style honey wine, dock at San Francisco’s Ferry Building," 15 Jan. 2020 She’s now chief conductor of Norway’s Kristiansand Symphony and principal guest conductor of Ireland’s RTE National Symphony. Rob Hubbard, Twin Cities, "Minnesota Orchestra review: Stutzmann shows us why we need more women leading orchestras," 7 Nov. 2019 In 2012, Baltimore developed a Climate Action Plan, which set a principal goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 15% below 2010 levels by 2020. Washington Post, "Experts: Rising heat in cities requires swift, local action," 6 Sep. 2019 The bill would require any public corporation with its principal executive offices in Hawaii to have at least one female director on its board by the end of 2020, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. USA TODAY, "Mormon crickets, luchador grackle, buried treasure: News from around our 50 states," 3 Mar. 2020 Legislation being considered by Kentucky lawmakers may change the provision, instead making a principal recommendation optional. Olivia Krauth, The Courier-Journal, "Three more JCPS principals are deemed incapable to lead struggling schools," 2 Mar. 2020 His sober presence among these scheming royals struck many dramatists as thematically important, beginning with the anonymous author of Octavia, a historical tragedy written just after its principal characters had passed from the scene. James Romm, The New York Review of Books, "The Winking Satire of ‘Agrippina’," 1 Mar. 2020 John Gilson, vice president, controller and principal accounting officer, has also resigned. Doug Cameron, WSJ, "Spirit AeroSystems Names New CFO After Compliance Review," 30 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Wang Dexue, an elementary school principal in hilly Yunnan Province, said that in some classes, half the students cannot participate in online lessons because their families lack the necessary hardware. Raymond Zhong, New York Times, "Coronavirus Fight Lays Bare Education’s Digital Divide," 17 Mar. 2020 School principals and teachers were to communicate with students about plans for March 16. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Some Wisconsin public and private schools are canceling classes; here's an updating list," 13 Mar. 2020 Families will be notified by teachers or school principals about changes in plans. Arika Herron, Indianapolis Star, "What Indianapolis-area schools are saying about the coronavirus in Indiana," 9 Mar. 2020 CBS News has reached out to the superintendent of Parkland schools as well as Wruble's high school principal for comment. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "Female high school hockey player taunted with "gender reveal" sign, called a "dude" by opposing team," 5 Mar. 2020 School principals and counselors recommend student leaders who lead either positively or negatively -- the idea is to pick those who are the most impactful -- and the program brings them together to build them up as life-changers. Fox News, "'Impact Agency' tackles youth issues affecting African-American males by building tomorrow's leaders," 21 Feb. 2020 Every night, the school principal makes sure all the lockers are closed so that there will be an orderly start to the next day. Laura Feiveson, Popular Mechanics, "Can You Solve Our Riddle of the Week?," 28 Feb. 2020 The school now has about 1,200 students and is projected to have 1,300 at the start of the next school year, said Dan Malone, a school vice principal. oregonlive, "With ‘Bring It On,' Roosevelt High sees school — and theater program — ‘on the rise’," 24 Feb. 2020 Tammy Smith, a 73-year-old retired elementary school principal from Southern California, said she was served a breakfast of yogurt and fruit after 1 p.m. on Wednesday, followed by a turkey sandwich for lunch about an hour later. Miho Inada, WSJ, "Coronavirus Cruise Passengers Face Infection Worries, Blown Travel Plans and Boredom," 6 Feb. 2020

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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Time Traveler for principal

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for principal

Last Updated

20 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Principal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/principal. Accessed 29 Mar. 2020.

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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
How to pronounce principal (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of principal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: most important

principal

noun
How to pronounce principal (audio)

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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