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 In a company bankruptcy or when a country defaults on its foreign-currency debt, bondholders are paid back some fraction of the principal value of the bonds. The Economist, "Buttonwood Why you need to read Jane Austen to appreciate perpetual bonds," 23 May 2020 The city’s piazza was fixed in the middle of the grid, and the eight principal directions of the compass radiated out from it. National Geographic, "Leonardo da Vinci transformed mapping from art to science," 21 May 2020 Kyle Pflug, principal program manager lead for Edge, wrote in a blog post. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Microsoft adds Edge features: Sidebar search, Pinterest tie-ins and more," 19 May 2020 Fine has returned to his post as the Pentagon's principal deputy inspector general. Melissa Quinn, CBS News, "The internal watchdogs Trump has fired or replaced," 18 May 2020 In an interview with Sky Sports Italia, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said the iconic brand could make the move from Formula 1 thanks to new budget constraints in that series. Ethan Sears, The Indianapolis Star, "F1 budget cap could lead Ferrari to IndyCar," 15 May 2020 Loans will be granted for a four-year period and principal repayment will start only after a 12-month moratorium. Prathamesh Mulye, Quartz India, "Who benefits, and by how much, from India’s $266 billion economic stimulus," 14 May 2020 Gordon spent nearly 40 years at the Central Intelligence Agency and was the fifth principal deputy director of national intelligence. Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, "How A.I. may make sense of 50,000 coronavirus research papers," 28 Apr. 2020 Ashley Bouder, principal dancer with New York City Ballet, is livestreaming classes every day this week. David Lyman, Cincinnati.com, "Best places to find arts, entertainment online during coronavirus homestand," 17 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun From there, school principals are authorized to enter the name into the system. Emily Bloch, USA TODAY, "New Florida policy aids transgender students doing distance learning amid coronavirus," 25 May 2020 In the speech, Hanks gave shout-outs to the senior class leaders and school principals. Anna Bauman, SFChronicle.com, "Tom Hanks delivers graduation speech to Skyline High School’s Class of 2020," 22 May 2020 Matthew Turner, currently a high school principal in the district, will replace outgoing Superintendent Randy Poe, who is retiring at the end of the school year. Max Londberg, Cincinnati.com, "Boone County Schools promotes high school principal to superintendent role," 12 May 2020 At a talent show in Hibbing High’s unaccountably ornate auditorium, the principal yanked the curtain shut on the Golden Chords and their cover of a Little Richard tune. David Remnick, The New Yorker, "Little Richard, the Great Innovator of Rock and Roll," 9 May 2020 Whitefish Bay High School principal Amy Levek intends to release more specific information by mid-May. Alec Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Here's how Milwaukee-area high schools are planning to handle graduation," 8 May 2020 On May 1, Hargrve High School principal Adam Skinner announced on Huffman ISD’s Facebook page that the graduation ceremony will take place on Saturday, June 27 at Ford Park Arena in Beaumont. Elliott Lapin, Houston Chronicle, "Hargrave High graduation date set for June 27 Ford Park Arena in Beaumont," 8 May 2020 New Jersey high school principal Glenn Lottmann recently unveiled his plan for this year’s graduation. Tawnell D. Hobbs, WSJ, "Graduation During Coronavirus: A Little Pomp, Under the Circumstances," 1 May 2020 The Oscar-winning actress plays Ms. Perky in the film, the high school principal hilariously balancing disciplining students while writing an erotic novel on the job. Ally Mauch, PEOPLE.com, "Allison Janney Forgot She Was in 10 Things I Hate About You: 'What Is This?'," 24 Apr. 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

29 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Principal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/principal. Accessed 6 Jun. 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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