Meaning of PRINCIPAL in English

I. ˈprin(t)səpəl, -səbəl also -inzp- or -in(t)sp- adjective

Etymology: Middle English, from Old French, from Latin principalis first, principal, from princip-, princeps first person, chief + -alis -al — more at prince

1. : most important, consequential, or influential : relegating comparable matters, items, or individuals to secondary rank : controlling , preceding , salient

his chief friend and principal ally — Anthony Trollope

a chicken stew of which the principal ingredient was not chicken but sea cucumber — John Steinbeck

2. obsolete : of or relating to a prince : princely

3. : of, relating to, or constituting principal or a principal: as

a. : capital

principal costs

invested a principal sum

b. : being the person chiefly concerned in some legal proceeding

4. : main 6

Synonyms: see chief

II. noun

( -s )

Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Late Latin principalis, from Latin, adjective, principal

1. : a person who has controlling authority or is in a position to act independently : one who has a leading position or takes the lead: as

a. : a chief or head man or woman : one presiding as ruler, leader, superior, or lord

b. : the chief executive officer of various educational institutions

the principal of our grade school

the vice-chancellor of some British universities is known as the principal

c. : one who employs another to act for him subject to his general control and instruction : the person from whom an agent's responsibility derives

d. : the chief actor or an actual participant in a crime including anyone present and actively abetting or assisting therein as distinguished from an accessory either before or after the fact

e. : the person primarily liable on a legal obligation or the one who will ultimately bear the burden because of a duty to indemnify another as distinguished from one secondarily liable (as an endorser, surety, or guarantor)

f. : one fighting or pledged to fight a duel — compare second

g. : a leading performer (as in a drama, opera, orchestra, or ballet) : a person taking a chief part in a theatrical performance : star

h. : official 1

2. : a matter or thing of primary importance : a main or most important element: as


(1) : a capital sum placed at interest, due as a debt, or used as a fund

(2) : the corpus or main body of an estate, portion, devise, or bequest — distinguished from income

b. : the construction that gives shape and strength to a roof and that is generally one of several trusses of timber or iron ; also : the most important member of a piece of framing

c. archaic : a fundamental point : principle

d. : one of the taper-bearing pillars formerly used to decorate a hearse

e. : an original (as of a writing or work of art) from which copies are, may be, or have been made

f. : either of the two outermost primaries of a hawk's wing


(1) : the chief open metallic stop in an English pipe organ that is an octave above the open diapason and consists of a 4-foot stop on the manual, an 8-foot stop on the pedal

(2) usually capitalized : an octave or 4-foot stop — used in combination

dulciana Principal


(1) : the chief motif or feature in a work of art

(2) : a fugue subject — compare answer

i. : a trumpet of a kind used prominently in old orchestral music (as of Handel)

III. |prin(t)sə|päl noun

( plural principa·les ˌ ̷ ̷ ̷ ̷ˈpä(ˌ)lās)

Etymology: Spanish, from Late Latin principalis chief, leading person

: a leading man or one of the first citizens of a Philippine or Latin American community

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.