follow Dictionary.com

8 Wintry Words to Defrost Your Vocabulary

principal

[prin-suh-puh l] /ˈprɪn sə pəl/
adjective
1.
first or highest in rank, importance, value, etc.; chief; foremost.
2.
of, of the nature of, or constituting principal or capital:
a principal investment.
3.
Geometry. (of an axis of a conic) passing through the foci.
noun
4.
a chief or head.
5.
the head or director of a school or, especially in England, a college.
6.
a person who takes a leading part in any activity, as a play; chief actor or doer.
7.
the first player of a division of instruments in an orchestra (excepting the leader of the first violins).
8.
something of principal or chief importance.
9.
Law.
  1. a person who authorizes another, as an agent, to represent him or her.
  2. a person directly responsible for a crime, either as an actual perpetrator or as an abettor present at its commission.
    Compare accessory (def 3).
10.
a person primarily liable for an obligation, in contrast with an endorser, or the like.
11.
the main body of an estate, or the like, as distinguished from income.
12.
Finance. a capital sum, as distinguished from interest or profit.
13.
Music.
  1. an organ stop.
  2. the subject of a fugue.
14.
(in a framed structure) a member, as a truss, upon which adjacent or similar members depend for support or reinforcement.
15.
each of the combatants in a duel, as distinguished from the seconds.
Origin
1250-1300
1250-1300; Middle English < Latin prīncipālis first, chief, equivalent to prīncip- (see prince) + -ālis -al1
Related forms
principalship, noun
underprincipal, noun
Can be confused
principal, principle (see usage note at the current entry; see synonym study at principle)
Synonyms
1. prime, paramount, leading, main, cardinal, preeminent. See capital1 . 4. leader. 5. headmaster, dean, master.
Antonyms
1. secondary, ancillary.
Usage note
The noun principle and the noun and adjective principal are often confused. Although pronounced alike, the words are not interchangeable in writing. A principle is broadly “a rule of action or conduct” (His overriding principle is greed) or “a fundamental doctrine or tenet” (Their principles do not permit the use of alcoholic beverages). The adjective principal has the general sense “chief, first, foremost”: My principal objection is the cost of the project. The noun principal has among other meanings “the head or director of a school” (The faculty supported the principal in her negotiations with the board) and “a capital sum, as distinguished from interest or profit” (The monthly payments go mostly for interest, leaving the principal practically untouched).
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source
Examples from the web for principals
  • Behind his chariot went all the officers and principals of the companies of the city.
  • One of our vice principals was to attend the excursion with these students and teachers.
  • Details of what transpired are vague-the principals aren't talking, and no cameras were present.
  • But neither of the principals had any idea of what they were starting.
  • Humans were practically harnessing the principals of natural selection long before they understood them.
  • The event is an ode to magic's time-honored and gleeful distortion of scientific and technological principals.
  • Lower paternity confidence among those who are the principals for sensational media shouldn't be surprising then.
  • It's illogical and implies things which are not within the realm of well validated scientific principals.
  • They then apply two principals to that information, editorial license and marketing concepts.
  • The party not in power generally hates everything the party in power does on general principals.
British Dictionary definitions for principals

principal

/ˈprɪnsɪpəl/
adjective (prenominal)
1.
first in importance, rank, value, etc; chief
2.
denoting or relating to capital or property as opposed to interest, etc
noun
3.
a person who is first in importance or directs some event, action, organization, etc
4.
(in Britain) a civil servant of an executive grade who is in charge of a section
5.
(law)
  1. a person who engages another to act as his agent
  2. an active participant in a crime
  3. the person primarily liable to fulfil an obligation
6.
the head of a school or other educational institution
7.
(in Scottish schools) a head of department
8.
(finance)
  1. capital or property, as contrasted with the income derived from it
  2. the original amount of a debt on which interest is calculated
9.
a main roof truss or rafter
10.
(music)
  1. the chief instrumentalist in a section of the orchestra
  2. one of the singers in an opera company
  3. either of two types of open diapason organ stops, one of four-foot length and pitch and the other of eight-foot length and pitch
11.
the leading performer in a play
Derived Forms
principalship, noun
Word Origin
C13: via Old French from Latin principālis chief, from princeps chief man, prince
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for principals

principal

adj.

c.1300, "main, principal, chief, dominant, most important;" also "great, large," from Old French principal "main, most important," of persons, "princely, high-ranking" (11c.), from Latin principalis "first in importance; original, primitive," from princeps (see prince).

n.

c.1300, "ruler, governor;" also "main part;" from principal (adj.) or from or influenced by noun uses in Old French and Latin. From mid-14c. in the sense of "money on which interest is paid;" 1827 as "person in charge of a public school," though meaning "head of a college or hall" was in English from mid-15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
principals in Culture

principal definition


The original amount of money lent, not including profits and interest.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for principal

Most English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for principals

16
21
Scrabble Words With Friends