— principalship , n.
/prin"seuh peuhl/ , adj.
1. first or highest in rank, importance, value, etc.; chief; foremost.
2. of, of the nature of, or constituting principal or capital: a principal investment.
3. Geom. (of an axis of a conic) passing through the foci.
4. a chief or head.
5. the head or director of a school or, esp. in England, a college.
6. a person who takes a leading part in any activity, as a play; chief actor or doer.
7. the first player of a division of instruments in an orchestra (excepting the leader of the first violins).
8. something of principal or chief importance.
a. a person who authorizes another, as an agent, to represent him or her.
b. a person directly responsible for a crime, either as an actual perpetrator or as an abettor present at its commission. Cf. accessory (def. 3).
10. a person primarily liable for an obligation, in contrast with an endorser, or the like.
11. the main body of an estate, or the like, as distinguished from income.
12. Finance. a capital sum, as distinguished from interest or profit.
a. an organ stop.
b. the subject of a fugue.
14. (in a framed structure) a member, as a truss, upon which adjacent or similar members depend for support or reinforcement.
15. each of the combatants in a duel, as distinguished from the seconds.
[ 1250-1300; ME principalis first, chief, equiv. to princip- (see PRINCE) + -alis -AL 1 ]
Syn. 1. prime, paramount, leading, main, cardinal, preeminent. See capital 1 . 4. leader. 5. headmaster, dean, master.
Ant. 1. secondary, ancillary.
Usage . The noun PRINCIPLE and the noun and adjective PRINCIPAL are often confused. Although pronounced alike, the words are not interchangeable in writing. A PRINCIPLE is broadly "a rule of action or conduct" ( His overriding principle is greed ) or "a fundamental doctrine or tenet" ( Their principles do not permit the use of alcoholic beverages ).
The adjective PRINCIPAL has the general sense "chief, first, foremost": My principal objection is the cost of the project. The noun PRINCIPAL has among other meanings "the head or director of a school" ( The faculty supported the principal in her negotiations with the board ) and "a capital sum, as distinguished from interest or profit" ( The monthly payments go mostly for interest, leaving the principal practically untouched ).