Meaning of KEY in English


I. key 1 S3 W2 /kiː/ BrE AmE adjective [no comparative]

very important or necessary:

China’s support is key to the success of the coalition.

key factor/points/questions etc

The President makes all the key decisions on foreign policy.

key role/player/figure etc (=one with a lot of influence on a result)

The show has been hit by the departure of key personnel.

⇨ ↑ low-key

• • •


■ nouns

▪ a key factor (=a very important factor)

A key factor in starting any business is its location.

▪ a key element/feature/component (=a very important part)

Advertising is a key element in the success of a product.

▪ a key role

Sanders played a key role in the team’s winning season.

▪ a key area

What are the key areas of economic policy?

▪ a key issue/question/point

The environment became a key issue during the election.

▪ a key figure (=a key person)

She was a key figure in the election campaign.

▪ a key player

He won’t leave key players out of the team.

▪ a key witness (=someone who can give important information about a crime)

She will be a key witness in the murder trial.

▪ a key decision

Women made most of the key decisions about how money was spent in the household.

▪ a key word (=an important or useful word)

Once you know the key words, you can make your own sentence.

II. key 2 S2 W2 BrE AmE noun [countable]

[ Language: Old English ; Origin: cæg ]

1 . LOCK a small specially shaped piece of metal that you put into a lock and turn in order to lock or unlock a door, start a car etc

house/car keys

I lost my house keys.

A bunch of keys hung from his belt.

key to

I can lend you a spare key to the store until you get one cut (=made) .

► Do not say ‘the key of’ something. Say the key to something. ⇨ ↑ master key

2 . IMPORTANT PART the key the part of a plan, action etc that will make it possible for it to succeed

the key to

Working well as a team is the key to success.

a discovery that may hold the key to our understanding of the universe

3 . COMPUTER the buttons that you press on a computer ↑ keyboard to operate the computer:

Press the ‘Escape’ key to exit.

hot key/shortcut key (=a special key on a computer, that does specific things)


a) [usually plural] the wooden or metal parts that you press on a piano and some wind instruments in order to play them:

piano keys

b) a scale of notes that begins with one particular note, or the quality of sound this scale has:

a tune in the key of A minor

5 . MAP/DRAWING a list of the signs, colours etc used on a map or technical drawing etc that explains what they mean

6 . TEST the printed answers to a test or set of questions in a book

7 . ISLAND [usually plural] a small flat island, especially one that is part of a group near the coast:

the Florida Keys

• • •



▪ a spare key (=an extra key)

Never hide your spare key under the doormat.

▪ door key

I’ll get a new door key cut for you.

▪ car keys

She left her car keys on the hall table.

▪ house keys

I’ve lost my house keys.

▪ the front/back door key

She felt in her pocket for the front door key.

▪ the ignition key (=the key that starts a car or engine)

Sam turned the ignition key and drove slowly away.

■ phrases

▪ a bunch/set of keys (=a group of keys kept together)

He took out a huge bunch of keys and unlocked the door.

▪ the key to a door/house/cupboard (=the key that opens a door/house/cupboard)

Has anyone seen the key to the garage door?

■ verbs

▪ put a key in a lock/the door

I put the key in the lock, but it wouldn’t turn.

▪ insert a key formal (=put it in a lock)

She inserted the key into the lock.

▪ turn a key

He climbed into his car and turned the key.

▪ cut a key (=make one)

Could you get a key cut for me?

▪ jangle your keys (=move them so they make a ringing sound)

He walked off down the corridor, jangling his keys.

▪ a key unlocks/opens something

The largest key unlocks the front door.

▪ a key turns

We heard the key turn in the lock.

III. key 3 BrE AmE verb [transitive]

1 . American English informal if you key a win for your team, you help it win a game because you play very well:

Abdul keyed the game with three touchdowns.

2 . British English to prepare a surface so that a covering such as paint will stick to it

key something ↔ in phrasal verb

to put information into a computer or other machine, using buttons or a keyboard:

Key in your password and press ‘Return’.

key something to something phrasal verb American English

1 . to make or change a system so that it works well with something else:

The daycare hours are keyed to the needs of working parents.

2 . if the level, price, or value of something is keyed to something else, it is related to it and they rise and fall at the same time:

Pensions are keyed to the rate of inflation.

⇨ ↑ keyed up

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.