from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. First, highest, or foremost in importance, rank, worth, or degree; chief. See Synonyms at chief.
  • adj. Of, relating to, or being financial principal, or a principal in a financial transaction.
  • n. One who holds a position of presiding rank, especially the head of an elementary school or high school.
  • n. A main participant in a situation.
  • n. A person having a leading or starring role.
  • n. The capital or main body of an estate or financial holding as distinguished from the interest or revenue from it.
  • n. A sum of money owed as a debt, upon which interest is calculated.
  • n. Law A person who empowers another to act as his or her representative.
  • n. Law The person having prime responsibility for an obligation as distinguished from one who acts as surety or as an endorser.
  • n. Law One who commits or is an accomplice to a crime.
  • n. Architecture Either of a pair of inclined timbers forming the sides of a triangular truss for a pitched roof.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Primary; most important.
  • n. The money originally invested or loaned, on which basis interest and returns are calculated.
  • n. The chief administrator of a school.
  • n. The chief executive and chief academic officer of a university or college.
  • n. One who directs another (the agent) to act on one′s behalf.
  • n. The primary participant in a crime.
  • n. A company represented by a salesperson.
  • n. ​ (North America) A partner or owner of a business.
  • n. A diapason, a type of organ stop on a pipe organ.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Highest in rank, authority, character, importance, or degree; most considerable or important; chief; main
  • adj. Of or pertaining to a prince; princely.
  • n. A leader, chief, or head; one who takes the lead; one who acts independently, or who has controlling authority or influence; ; -- distinguished from a subordinate, abettor, auxiliary, or assistant.
  • n.
  • n. The chief actor in a crime, or an abettor who is present at it, -- as distinguished from an accessory.
  • n. A chief obligor, promisor, or debtor, -- as distinguished from a surety.
  • n. One who employs another to act for him, -- as distinguished from an agent.
  • n. A thing of chief or prime importance; something fundamental or especially conspicuous.
  • n. 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.
  • n. 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.
  • n. 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.
  • n. A heirloom; a mortuary.
  • n. The first two long feathers of a hawk's wing.
  • n. One of turrets or pinnacles of waxwork and tapers with which the posts and center of a funeral hearse were formerly crowned.
  • n. A principal or essential point or rule; a principle.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Chief; highest in rank, authority, value, or importance; most considerable; main; first: as, the principal officers of a government; the principal points in an argument; the principal products of a country.
  • Of or pertaining to a prince; princely.
  • Synonyms Leading, great, capital, cardinal, supreme.
  • n. A chief or head; one who takes a leading part; one primarily concerned in an action, and not an auxiliary, accessory, assistant, or agent: as, the principals in a duel.
  • n. A governor or presiding officer; one who is Chief in authority. ; ; ;
  • n. In law: A person who, being sui juris, and competent to do an act on his own account, employs another person to do it; the person from whom an agent's authority is derived. Compare master, 2.
  • n. A person for whom another becomes surety; one who is liable for a debt in the first instance.
  • n. In testamentary and administration law, the corpus or capital of the estate, in contradistinction to the income.
  • n. In criminal law, the actor in the commission of a crime; a person concerned in the commission of a crime, whether he directly commits the act constituting the offense or instigates or aids and abets in its commission.
  • n. In com., money bearing interest; a capital sum lent on interest, due as a debt or used as a fund: so called in distinction to interest or profits.
  • n. In organ-building, a stop of the open diapason group, usually giving tones an octave above the pitch of the digitals used, like the octave.
  • n. A musical instrument used in old orchestral music, especially that of Handel — a variety of trumpet, probably having a larger tube than the ordinary tromba.
  • n. In music: The subject of a fugue: opposed to answer.
  • n. A soloist or other leading performer.
  • n. Same as principal rafter. See rafter.
  • n. In the fine arts, the chief motive in a work of art, to which the rest are to be subordinate; also, an original painting or other work of art.
  • n. One of the turrets or pinnacles of waxwork and tapers with which the posts and center of a hearse were formerly crowned.
  • n. An important personal belonging; an heirloom.
  • n. In ornithology, one of the primaries.
  • n. A main truss, as of a roof, where there may be many principals.
  • n. In the Philippine Islands, every member, present or past, of the council of a pueblo; also, a first-born son of a gobernadorcillo or of a cabeza de barangay. See barangay.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the major party to a financial transaction at a stock exchange; buys and sells for his own account
  • adj. most important element
  • n. the educator who has executive authority for a school
  • n. the original amount of a debt on which interest is calculated
  • n. an actor who plays a principal role
  • n. (criminal law) any person involved in a criminal offense, regardless of whether the person profits from such involvement
  • n. capital as contrasted with the income derived from it


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English, from Old French, from Latin prīncipālis, from prīnceps, prīncip-, leader, emperor.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin principalis.


  • Admitting the truth of this reflection, we might still reply, that the principal merit of the Iliad, considered as the production of Genius, lies in the grandeur of the sentiments, the beauty and sublimity of the illustrations, and the _original_ strokes which are wrought into the description of the _principal Actors_.

    An Essay on the Lyric Poetry of the Ancients

  • Remember this, That the ruling, pre - dominant, chief, and principal end in labour - ing for the things of this world, ihould be in in reference to the world to come, Wheft QtrvtA prayed for life, * it was not principal* ly that he mqght live; but that he might live andpraifcQod, Pfal.

    Soul-prosperity, in several sermons

  • Throughout this news release and except where otherwise indicated, the term "principal amount," where used with respect to the Zero Coupon Notes due 2020, are references to their accreted amount as of the Early Settlement Date as defined below and the term "principal amount at maturity," where used with respect to the Zero Coupon Notes due 2020, are references to their principal amount payable at maturity of $1,000 per note.

  • However, he ignores the fact that for 12 years Ms. Alsop was music director of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra in Denver, initially starting with the title principal conductor; she now is its conductor laureate.

    Praise for Marin Alsop

  • After all, the term principal impliedly contains the concept of policy making authority.

    Archive 2006-03-01

  • This requires the agent to certify that to his knowledge the principal is alive and that the principal has not revoked the power of attorney or that agent's authority to act.

    The powers (of attorney) that be: What you need to know now

  • Although modest in size, the hacienda's casa principal is a grand space with high-beamed ceilings, thick walls, and doors opening onto two portales that overlook the main corral and gardens.

    Restoring a Mexican hacienda

  • Now the principal is there every day when I come for my baby girl.


  • "It doesn't matter because our principal is a Yankee fan."

    USA TODAY Latest news

  • According to the terminology currently used in this area, a contract between an economic agent and a principal is a rule, or function h, which for every outcome x indicates (positive or negative) compensation

    Additional background material on the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1996


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.