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 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective In a mid-air press briefing aboard Air Force One, Karine Jean-Pierre, the principal deputy White House press secretary, told reporters that U.S. troops are beginning to leave Afghanistan. Jamie Mcintyre, Washington Examiner, "Gillibrand bill to overhaul military justice system attracts small army of bipartisan co-sponsors," 30 Apr. 2021 Wormuth served as the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and civil support, according to The White House. Chelsey Cox, USA TODAY, "President Joe Biden to nominate Christine Wormuth as first woman secretary of the Army," 13 Apr. 2021 The vaccination plan was authorized through a January 27 memo signed by Terry Adirim, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs at the Department of Defense. Catherine Herridge, CBS News, "Department of Defense pauses plan to give COVID-19 vaccine to Guantanamo detainees," 30 Jan. 2021 McEldowney was director of European affairs on the National Security Council staff in the Clinton administration as well as the principal deputy assistant secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Fortune, "Another first: All three top posts in Kamala Harris’ office will be filled by women," 3 Dec. 2020 The transition team also announced the appointments of Karine Jean-Pierre as principal deputy press secretary and Pili Tobar as the deputy White House communications director. NBC News, "How the Biden Administration could mark a 'turning point for women'," 2 Dec. 2020 Karine Jean-Pierre, the principal deputy press secretary, works as an activist and organizer. Brooklyn White, Essence, "3 Black Women Will Serve On History-Making White House Communications Team," 30 Nov. 2020 Meanwhile, Karin Jean-Pierre, who will serve as principal deputy press secretary, has worked as a senior advisor to Biden as well as chief of staff to Harris. Emily Tannenbaum, Glamour, "Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Announce First All-Female White House Communications Team," 30 Nov. 2020 If a taxpayer is owed money from the third stimulus, the credit could be claimed on the 2021 tax return, according to Mark Luscombe, principal analyst for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Susan Tompor, USA TODAY, "Why is it taking so long to get tax refunds this year? Some are taking the IRS 6-8 weeks in 2021," 23 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Tim Bryner, the lead co-principal at the high school who organized a 1,200-shot event on March 13, oversaw the logistics while Passport personnel administered the shots. Steve Sadin, chicagotribune.com, "Waukegan High hosts clinic as efforts increase to vaccinate older teens; ‘New COVID-19 infections are on the rise in our younger residents’," 6 May 2021 The spanking by Melissa Carter, principal at Central Elementary School, was done in front of the student’s mother on April 13 at an office at the school, NBC 2 reports. Cliff Pinckard, cleveland, "Florida principal under investigation after spanking 6-year-old student with wooden paddle," 4 May 2021 Deanne Kapetanov, principal at Woods Cross High School, said that expansion happened even before her students started signing up for appointments. Sean P. Means, The Salt Lake Tribune, "More than 100K Utahns ages 16 and 17 are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. Clinics are going to high schools to get it to them.," 29 Apr. 2021 Corey Chafin, a principal at consulting firm Kearney with a focus on consumers, food and retail, said 25 grams certainly stands out among its competitors. Kristen Leigh Painter, Star Tribune, "General Mills aims new yogurt at people packing in the protein," 27 Apr. 2021 While principal at Lakeridge, Schiele was found liable of failing to protect a member of the school’s dance team from hazing. oregonlive, "Lake Oswego has a new school superintendent: Jennifer Schiele," 27 Apr. 2021 Tom George, Lee’s longtime manager and the principal at TG Sports & Literary, spent years watching Lee devote her time to others. New York Times, "The Black Widow of Pool Stares Down a New Challenge: Cancer," 23 Apr. 2021 That remains to be seen, said CJ Bangah, a principal at consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. Mike Snider, USA TODAY, "Talking Tech: Apple and Facebook dominate the week, but holograms are the future," 24 Apr. 2021 Meghan Elliott, founding principal at New History, a historic preservation consulting company based in Minneapolis, said the state did one to three rehabilitation projects each year before the tax credit was passed. Briana Bierschbach, Star Tribune, "Growing support for extending tax credit to fix Minnesota's historic buildings," 23 Apr. 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.

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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

8 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Principal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/principal. Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for principal

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

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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