Dictionary > English Dictionary > Definition, synonym and antonym of principal
Meaning of principal by Wiktionary Dictionary


    Alternative forms


    From Latin principalis .


    • IPA: /ˈprɪnsɪpəl/, /ˈprɪnsəpəl/
    • Hyphenation: prin‧ci‧pal
    • Homophone: principle


    principal ( comparative more principal, superlative most principal )

    1. Primary; most important .
      Smith is the principal architect of this design .
      The principal cause of the failure was poor planning .

    Usage notes

    Principal is generally not used in the comparative or superlative in formal writing, as the meaning is already superlative. However, one may occasionally see, e.g., more principal meaning more likely to be principal or more nearly principal. There are similar issues with unique .


    Related terms

    • principally


    principal ( countable and uncountable; plural: principals )

    1. ( finance, uncountable ) The money originally invested or loaned, on which basis interest and returns are calculated .
      A portion of your mortgage payment goes to reduce the principal, and the rest covers interest .
    2. ( North America, Australian, New Zealand ) The chief administrator of a school.
    3. ( UK, Scotland, Canada ) The chief executive and chief academic officer of a university or college.
    4. ( law ) One who directs another ( the agent ) to act on one′s behalf .
      When an attorney represents a client, the client is the principal who permits the attorney, the client′s agent, to act on the client′s behalf .
    5. ( law ) The primary participant in a crime.
    6. A company represented by a salesperson .
      My principal sells metal shims .
    7. ( North America ) A partner or owner of a business .
    8. ( music ) A diapason, a type of organ stop on a pipe organ .


    Coordinate terms

    Related terms

Explanation of principal by Wordnet Dictionary


    1. most important element

    2. the principal rivers of America
      the principal example
    1. the major party to a financial transaction at a stock exchange

    2. the educator who has executive authority for a school

    3. she sent unruly pupils to see the principal
    4. any person involved in a criminal offense, regardless of whether the person profits from such involvement

    5. an actor who plays a principal role

    6. capital as contrasted with the income derived from it

    7. the original amount of a debt on which interest is calculated

    Definition of principal by GCIDE Dictionary


    1. Principal a. [F., from L. principalis. See Prince.]
      1. Highest in rank, authority, character, importance, or degree; most considerable or important; chief; main; as, “the principal officers of a Government; the principal men of a state; the principal productions of a country; the principal arguments in a case.”

      Wisdom is the principal thing. Prov. iv. 7.

      2. Of or pertaining to a prince; princely. [A Latinism] [Obs.] Spenser.

      Principal axis. See Axis of a curve, under Axis. -- Principal axes of a quadric ( Geom. ), three lines in which the principal planes of the solid intersect two and two, as in an ellipsoid. -- Principal challenge. ( Law ) See under Challenge. -- Principal plane. See Plane of projection under Plane. -- Principal of a quadric ( Geom. ), three planes each of which is at right angles to the other two, and bisects all chords of the quadric perpendicular to the plane, as in an ellipsoid. -- Principal point ( Persp. ), the projection of the point of sight upon the plane of projection. -- Principal ray ( Persp. ), the line drawn through the point of sight perpendicular to the perspective plane. -- Principal section ( Crystallog. ), a plane passing through the optical axis of a crystal.

    2. Principal, n.
      1. A leader, chief, or head; one who takes the lead; one who acts independently, or who has controlling authority or influence; as, “the principal of a faction, a school, a firm, etc.”; -- distinguished from a subordinate, abettor, auxiliary, or assistant.

      2. Hence: ( Law ) The chief actor in a crime, or an abettor who is present at it, -- as distinguished from an accessory. A chief obligor, promisor, or debtor, -- as distinguished from a surety. One who employs another to act for him, -- as distinguished from an agent. Wharton. Bouvier. Burrill.

      3. A thing of chief or prime importance; something fundamental or especially conspicuous. Specifically: ( Com. ) A capital sum of money, placed out at interest, due as a debt or used as a fund; -- so called in distinction from interest or profit. ( Arch. & Engin. ) The construction which gives shape and strength to a roof, -- generally a truss of timber or iron, but there are roofs with stone principals. Also, loosely, the most important member of a piece of framing. ( Mus. ) In English organs the chief open metallic stop, an octave above the open diapason. On the manual it is four feet long, on the pedal eight feet. In Germany this term corresponds to the English open diapason. ( O. Eng. Law ) A heirloom; a mortuary. Cowell. pl. The first two long feathers of a hawk's wing. Spenser. J. H. Walsh. One of turrets or pinnacles of waxwork and tapers with which the posts and center of a funeral hearse were formerly crowned. Oxf. Gloss. A principal or essential point or rule; a principle.