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

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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 John Tomsick will be the mission's principal investigator at the University of California, Berkeley. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 19 Oct. 2021 After a year at Pleasant Hill, Tubbs-Wallace became principal at Rockdale Academy elementary school in Avondale before transferring back to Woodward in 2019. Randy Tucker, The Enquirer, 15 Oct. 2021 Shetfall is a principal investigator in the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at the Abigail Wexner Research Institute and a professor at the Ohio State University. Alexis Oatman, cleveland, 13 Oct. 2021 On the paperwork for these studies, Nand was listed as the principal investigator. Brendan I. Koerner, Wired, 12 Oct. 2021 Coronavirus Neurocognitive Study, where Hellmuth is principal investigator. Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle, 10 Oct. 2021 James assumed the role of in-house rehab scientist: the family’s principal investigator into Livie’s injury, and its chief adviser on how to treat her most effectively. Daniel Engber, The Atlantic, 6 Oct. 2021 Cohen serves as principal country music curator for Amazon Music. Jessica Nicholson, Billboard, 4 Oct. 2021 The first day of the 2021–22 academic year was approaching, and Macey — who became principal two months before the lockdown — thought her students should have an entrance as grand as that of the Grammys or the Met Gala. Jane Starr Drinkard, Curbed, 29 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The virtuoso principal Megan Fairchild, 37, who dances many of the company’s most technically challenging roles, gave birth to twin girls in April. New York Times, 10 Oct. 2021 Then, in the filing for 2018, Trump’s company said no principal would be due until 2024. BostonGlobe.com, 9 Oct. 2021 The principal said the school accepted the teacher's resignation. Minyvonne Burke, NBC News, 9 Oct. 2021 A week later, the principal called Pacific Gas & Electric Co., which found a potentially dangerous gas leak and ordered all 480 students to evacuate the school immediately. Annie Vainshtein, San Francisco Chronicle, 8 Oct. 2021 West High principal Sven Gustafson said in an email to parents Friday that students told a staff member about the threat just after lunch. Anchorage Daily News, 8 Oct. 2021 Friday, a former student wounded a principal at a Houston public charter school. Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY, 7 Oct. 2021 The shooting comes days after a former student at a Houston public charter school has been charged after confessing to shooting and wounding the campus principal, authorities said. Washington Post, 6 Oct. 2021 Many investors want to live off the income from their portfolio instead of dipping into principal. Kristin Mckenna, Forbes, 5 Oct. 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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Dictionary Entries Near principal

princing

principal

principal boy

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Statistics for principal

Last Updated

23 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Principal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/principal. Accessed 24 Oct. 2021.

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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

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