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

For Grossman, a woman’s capacity to be a principal character does not end with her reproductive years. Sophie Pinkham, The New Republic, "Vasily Grossman’s Lost Epic," 27 Aug. 2019 Hayward – who was named principal dancer in 2016 to the British Royal Ballet – plays Victoria, the shy white kitten, in director Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical. Kimberly Wilson, Essence, "Here’s Everything We Know About Francesca Hayward, The Black Female Lead In ‘Cats’," 19 July 2019 Complications arise when dealing with how to get her body out of the morgue for a proper funeral service and are only exacerbated by the rising emotion from each of the show’s principal characters. Stephen Daw, Billboard, "Never Let You Go: 5 Key Takeaways From Episode 4 of 'Pose' Season 2," 10 July 2019 Its principal characters are the archetypal figures Michael, Lucifer, and Eve, who represent the cosmic forces of creation, rebellion, and rebirth. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "Karlheinz Stockhausen Composes the Cosmos," 17 June 2019 Perhaps a fitting send off for the man who has acted as the principal character on the show for the past eight seasons will be to harken back to his darkest and most transformative moment. Tyler Mccarthy, Fox News, "'The Walking Dead' Season 9 reportedly bringing back Jon Bernthal's Shane," 18 June 2018 Two plaintiffs are behind the challenge: Louis Hoffman, the principal author of the Clean Elections Act and a former chair of the commission; and Amy Chan, a current member of the commission and Arizona's former state elections director. Dustin Gardiner, azcentral, "Lawsuit targets GOP ballot measure to limit powers of Clean Elections Commission," 17 May 2018 Here's a cool note -- the three principal figures (Mathews, Westrum and Donatelli) returned to County Stadium in 1979 to recreate the image, with Sports Illustrated turning 25 that year. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Sixty five years ago, Sports Illustrated produced its first issue with a photo of Milwaukee on the cover," 16 Aug. 2019 Fisch, principal conductor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, approached the score with conviction, reveling in the composer’s colorful and resourceful orchestration. cleveland.com, "Familiar works enjoy new life on revelatory night with Cleveland Orchestra," 12 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Another son, Hamun, 44, a high school principal, lost his left leg in a land mine explosion during military training in 2005. Washington Post, "A family scarred by the Afghan war hopes a peace deal will make their sacrifices worth it," 1 Sep. 2019 As the 2018-19 academic year gets underway, teachers and principals are concerned that the popularity will continue to grow. Rasha Ali, USA TODAY, "School's PSA to parents on identifying e-cigarettes goes viral: 'You see this watch...it's a vape'," 28 Aug. 2019 The 59-year-old former friar declined to answers questions about his time as a teacher and principal in Mississippi. Michael Rezendes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee Franciscan leader paid off Mississippi men in friar's sex abuse," 27 Aug. 2019 On Tuesday, the sheriff's office announced the arrest of Destiny Jene Terry, 44, on a charge of being a principal to second-degree murder. Fox News, "Escaped Georgia inmate named as suspect in Florida murder," 21 Aug. 2019 Sister Janice became a very successful school principal after 20 years teaching upper grades in several parishes throughout the Dioceses of Hartford and Bridgeport. courant.com, "Janice McFarland," 18 Aug. 2019 Ed Garden, a principal with at Trian, a major GE investor, is renowned as a hands-on director at the fund's portfolio companies. Shawn Tully, Fortune, "The Most Fascinating Standoff in Corporate America: The Accountant Who Exposed Madoff vs. GE," 17 Aug. 2019 Many teachers and some principals complain about discipline issues arising from the drop in suspensions. Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, "LAUSD superintendent touts increases in student achievement," 15 Aug. 2019 Even his teachers and school principal noticed a shift. Author: Moriah Balingit, Anchorage Daily News, "E-cigarettes spawn a form of teen addiction that worries doctors, parents and schools," 26 July 2019

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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Statistics for principal

Last Updated

12 Sep 2019

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)

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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