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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

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 Before Copeland, only several African-Americans had danced in principal dance positions in a major ballet company in the United States. Poppy Harlow And Dalila-johari Paul, CNN, "Misty Copeland says the ballet world still has a race problem and she wants to help fix that," 21 May 2018 Alan Stern, principal investigator for the New Horizons mission, tells The Verge. Loren Grush, The Verge, "On New Year’s Day, a spacecraft will zoom by the most distant object humanity has ever visited," 27 Dec. 2018 He is barred from serving as principal investigator on any grants administered through the university, and barred from departmental or other service roles on campus, including the administration of campus research centers. Kelsey Keith, Curbed, "UC Berkeley suspends professor for sexual harassment, citing ‘voluminous evidence’," 21 Aug. 2018 Some of the foods incorporated into the diet include heavy whipping cream, oils such as olive or peanut, avocados, walnuts and cashews, said Jennifer Lynn Caceres, a dietitian at Nicklaus Children's Hospital and principal investigator on the study. Allison Horton, miamiherald, "Want to reduce your odds of getting cancer? Stay active, lose weight and eat healthy," 25 May 2018 Margaret Kivelson, a space physicist at the University of California, Los Angeles who was principal investigator for Galileo's magnetometer, confirmed his hunch. Sarah Kaplan, ajc, "Scientists discover new evidence for jets of water on Europa, a target in the search for life," 14 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Police say Officer Maryssa Boskoski was called to a classroom when a sleeping student wouldn't wake up for a teacher or principal. Fox News, "Police: Resource officer activated Taser to wake student," 6 Sep. 2018 Jeff is currently a principal at the private equity firm KKR. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'The View' Cohost Abby Huntsman Has Quite an Interesting Background," 28 Aug. 2018 About 30,000 nurses and health care workers went on a daylong strike last month, while nearly as many teachers and principals walked off the job for a day this month. Nick Perry, The Seattle Times, "New Zealand politicians plan pay freeze as workers strike," 19 Aug. 2018 The Pennsylvania grants will in some cases pay for the establishment and expansion of programs that prepare teachers and principals with a full-year residency. Philly.com, "The teacher supply is plummeting. Pa. will spend $2M to stem the tide," 12 July 2018 The school board signed on to a resignation agreement with the would-be principal at a special meeting in June, about a month after hiring him to lead Beulah Park Elementary School. Emily K. Coleman, Lake County News-Sun, "Newly hired principal gets $15K from Zion school district to resign before starting," 11 July 2018 Eric Ellis is a principal at Kotter, a leadership and strategy acceleration firm. Eric Ellis, Fortune, "2 Things That Need to Happen for Driverless Cars to Go Mainstream," 28 June 2018 DeVos was also grilled on the fate of undocumented students and whether principals or teachers can call immigration authorities about them. CBS News, "Betsy DeVos: School safety commission won't examine role of guns," 5 June 2018 Phillips has almost 40 years of experience in building level and district level positions at Princeton ranging from teacher and principal to district administrator. Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati.com, "Princeton superintendent leaving for Denver school post," 11 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about principal

Statistics for principal

Last Updated

7 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for principal

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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 \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on principal

What made you want to look up principal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

excited commotion or publicity

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!