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
• • •
▪ 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
I lost my house keys.
A bunch of keys hung from his belt.
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)
4 . MUSIC
a) [usually plural] the wooden or metal parts that you press on a piano and some wind instruments in order to play them:
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
• • •
■ ADJECTIVES/NOUN + key
▪ 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.
▪ 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?
▪ 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. 2012