principal

adjective
prin·​ci·​pal | \ ˈprin(t)-s(ə-)pəl How to pronounce principal (audio) , -sə-bəl \

Essential Meaning of principal

: most important : chief Vegetables are the principal ingredients in this soup. My principal [=main] reason for moving is to have a shorter drive to work. She is the principal cellist of the orchestra.

Full 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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from principal

Adjective

principally \ ˈprin(t)-​sə-​p(ə-​)lē How to pronounce principal (audio) , -​sə-​bə-​lē , -​splē \ adverb

Noun

principalship \ ˈprin(t)-​s(ə-​)pəl-​ˌship How to pronounce principal (audio) , -​sə-​bəl-​ \ noun

Principle vs. Principal: Usage Guide

Adjective

Evidence of confusion between principle and principal can be found even in publications overseen by professional editors. To keep these words straight, remember that principle functions only as a noun, and in its most common uses refers to a basic rule or law, as in a guiding principle or a matter of principle. If you are looking for an adjective form of this word, you must use principled, as in taking a principled stand. Principal functions as both a noun and an adjective. The noun has various meanings referring to someone with controlling authority the school principal or in a leading position the ballet's two principals , but also has meanings relating to finance, law, and architecture. As an adjective, principal typically means "most important," as in the principal reason.

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 The Bureau of Land Management will conduct the 120-day review to determine if the existing plan is in compliance with federal law, according to the three-page memorandum from Laura Daniel-Davis, a principal deputy assistant secretary with Interior. Alex Demarban, Anchorage Daily News, 8 Sep. 2021 TJ Ducklo, who was national press secretary for Biden's campaign during the general election, will be the White House's deputy press secretary, joining press secretary Jen Psaki and principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. Dana Bash And Abbie Sharpe, CNN, 8 Aug. 2021 The first order of business for the government is to focus on the schools that are or were under Department of the Interior control, said Bryan Newland, principal deputy assistant secretary for Indian affairs at the Interior Department. Debra Utacia Krol, The Arizona Republic, 2 Aug. 2021 White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a briefing at 1:30 p.m. Alisa Wiersema, ABC News, 30 July 2021 Arielle Trzcinski, formerly a principal health care analyst at Forrester, joined Lyra Health as director of product marketing. Stat Staff, STAT, 26 Aug. 2021 The cost of low health literacy in Wisconsin is estimated at $3.4 billion to $7.6 billion annually, according to John Vernon, principal analyst for a 2007 health literacy costs study by the University of Connecticut School of Business. Karen Herzog, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 23 Aug. 2021 Mark Luscombe, principal analyst for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting, said President Joe Biden has not proposed an exclusion of some jobless benefits from taxable income as was done retroactively for 2020. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, 13 Aug. 2021 Tuong Nguyen, senior principal analyst at Gartner, said much of the success of these products will depend on the apps that developers create to showcase innovative use cases for the extra real estate a foldable screen provides. Samantha Murphy Kelly, CNN, 11 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Derrick Bowen, principal at Pariveda Solutions, an information technology consulting firm, said the solution ultimately requires rethinking how electricity is made and distributed in the U.S. Arkansas Online, 2 Sep. 2021 Davis eventually became the district’s first Black principal at Fairview Elementary in 1969. Samantha Davenport, Anchorage Daily News, 2 Sep. 2021 Nathan Moeder, principal with San Diego real estate analysts London Moeder Advisors, said the White House effort was more of a public relations exercise from federal officials because zoning and growth laws are still controlled at the state level. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 Sep. 2021 Posey said that the principal at Mary Lin Elementary School, where her daughter attends, implemented a plan that put Black students in two classes with two different teachers, while White students were put in six classes with six different teachers. Fox News, 31 Aug. 2021 But some employers may offer a smaller subsidy if an employee chooses a family coverage plan, according to Rob DeNinno, principal at Precision Benefits Group, which works with small to mid-size businesses. Jeanne Sahadi, CNN, 31 Aug. 2021 Collage is one of the youngest dance groups on Scott’s list, founded in New York in 2006 by Harper and Kevin Thomas, a principal with Dance Theatre of Harlem. Washington Post, 28 Aug. 2021 Gladys Rodriguez, the principal at Waukegan’s John S. Clark Elementary School, said getting children comfortable in a classroom again with their peers takes precedence over starting the day with a reading lesson or a math problem. Steve Sadin, chicagotribune.com, 11 Aug. 2021 Robbie Davis, a former assistant principal at Beaumont Middle School. oregonlive, 7 Aug. 2021

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

Buying Guide

Our team at The Usage has selected the best kids' desks of 2021.

Learn More About principal

Time Traveler for principal

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near principal

princing

principal

principal boy

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for principal

Last Updated

17 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Principal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/principal. Accessed 23 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for principal

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

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

More from Merriam-Webster on principal

Nglish: Translation of principal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of principal for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

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!