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

Dunleavy is a former educator who worked in Alaska as a teacher, principal and superintendent. Gregg Re, Fox News, "Mike Dunleavy wins GOP nod for Alaska governor, setting stage for toss-up three-way race," 22 Aug. 2018 Teachers can be nominated by a student, parent, colleague, principal or other administrator familiar with his or her work. Alec Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "University School of Milwaukee's Chuck Taft named Wisconsin History Teacher of the Year," 6 July 2018 Its principal shareholders may or may not sell stock into the market. William D. Cohan, The Hive, "Wall Street Heavies Fear a Beloved Gravy Train Is Nearing the End," 2 Apr. 2018 Among Spotify's principal shareholders, Ek personally controls 25.7 percent of the company's ordinary shares, amounting to almost 46.8 million in total. Colin Stutz, Billboard, "Spotify Files to Go Public," 28 Feb. 2018 Patrick Moorhead, who follows Dell as principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said the arrangement is not likely to change much about the company’s operation. Andy Rosen, BostonGlobe.com, "Dell is going public again," 2 July 2018 Ian Thom, principal analyst at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, said the tighter deadline could work against Iraq. Washington Post, "Iraq’s move to rush oil bidding could deter some firms," 25 Apr. 2018 Paul Verna, principal analyst for video at eMarketer, said in a recent interview. Bob Fernandez, Philly.com, "TV ads continue to slump as money flows to Google, Facebook," 2 Apr. 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Google’s and Facebook ’s dominance has narrowed the opportunity for some startups, said Ana Milicevic, principal and co-founder at Sparrow Advisers, a management consultancy specializing in ad-tech and related fields. Nat Ives, WSJ, "Funding for Startups in Marketing, Ad Tech Is Expected to Fall in 2019, Report Says," 5 Nov. 2018 Saenko is currently a principal, or a junior investor, at Khosla Ventures. Theodore Schleifer, Recode, "Steve Jurvetson, ousted from his firm almost a year ago, is building up a team in preparation for his comeback," 13 Oct. 2018 When Ballou’s principal, Willie Jackson, declared that Jamal wouldn’t be playing that night, his team refused to take the field for 45 minutes. Kaylen Ralph, Teen Vogue, "A High School Football Star Wasn't Allowed to Play Because He Was Homeless. But Now He's Back on the Field," 2 Oct. 2018 The guide recommended that a school team for assessing threats include teachers, coaches, principals, guidance counselors, school resource officers and mental health professionals. NBC News, "It's not 'snitching': Secret Service says students can help prevent gun violence," 11 July 2018 Zárate, 70, a retired former principal of Hull Elementary School in the Northside Independent School District, has served on the Alamo Colleges board for 15 years and is chair of its audit, budget and finance committee. Alia Malik, San Antonio Express-News, "Challenger halts Alamo Colleges runoff recount," 11 July 2018 If a certain percentage of loans soured, the company agreed to cover the principal, interest and fees. Danielle Douglas-gabriel, latimes.com, "Defunct for-profit college firm ITT's former executives settle fraud charges," 10 July 2018 If a certain percentage of loans soured, the company agreed to cover the principal, interest and fees. Danielle Douglas-gabriel, Washington Post, "ITT’s top executives settle fraud charges with SEC," 9 July 2018 The board also named three new principals for the 2018-19 year, including Bryan Schultz for Del Norte High School, Crystal Brownlee for Meadowbrook Middle School and Andrew Gergurich for Painted Rock Elementary School. Emily Sorensen, Pomerado News, "PUSD board extends superintendent's contract on split vote," 5 July 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

14 Nov 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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