Definition of central adjective from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//ˈsentrəl//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈsentrəl//
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  1. 1  most important The central issue is that of widespread racism. She has been a central figure in the campaign. Prevention also plays a central role in traditional medicine. Reducing inflation is central to (= is an important part of) the government's economic policy. Synonymsmainmajor key central principal chief primeThese words all describe somebody/​something that is the largest or most important of its kind.main [only before noun] largest or most important:Be careful crossing the main road. The main thing is to remain calm.major [usually before noun] very large or important:He played a major role in setting up the system. Major is most often used after a with a singular noun, or no article with a plural noun. When it is used with the or my/​your/​his/​her/​our/​their it means ‘the largest or most important’:Our major concern here is combatting poverty. In this meaning it is only used to talk about ideas or worries that people have, not physical things, and it is also more formal than main:Be careful crossing the major road. The major thing is to remain calm.key [usually before noun] most important; essential:He was a key figure in the campaign. Key is used most frequently in business and political contexts. It can be used to talk about ideas, or the part that somebody plays in a situation, but not physical things. It is slightly more informal than major, especially when used after a noun and linking verb:Speed is key at this point.central (rather formal) most important:The central issue is that of widespread racism. Central is used in a similar way to key, but is more formal. It is most frequently used in the phrase something is central to something else. principal [only before noun] (rather formal) most important:The principal reason for this omission is lack of time. Principal is mostly used for statements of fact about which there can be no argument. To state an opinion, or to try to persuade somebody of the facts as you see them, it is more usual to use key or central:The key/​central issue here is…chief [only before noun] (rather formal) most important:Unemployment was the chief cause of poverty.prime [only before noun] (rather formal) most important; to be considered first:My prime concern is to protect my property.Patterns a/​the main/​major/​key/​central/​principal/​chief/​prime aim/​concern a/​the main/​major/​principal road/​town/​city the main/​key thing is to… to be of major/​key/​central/​prime importance
  2. 2  having power or control over other parts the central committee (= of a political party) The organization has a central office in York.
  3. 3  in the centre of an area or object central London Central America/Europe/Asia There will be rain later in central and eastern parts of the country. the central area of the brain
  4. 4  easily reached from many areas The flat is very central—just five minutes from Princes Street. a central location
  5. 5 (phonetics) (of a vowel) produced with the centre of the tongue in a higher position than the front or the back, for example /ɜː/ in bird compare back, front
  6. Word Originmid 17th cent.: from French, or from Latin centralis, from centrum, from Greek kentron ‘sharp point, stationary point of a pair of compasses’, related to kentein ‘to prick’.Extra examples Our house is very central, so we can easily get to theatres and cinemas. These facts are central to the case. This distinction is of absolutely central importance. Alienation is a central motif in her novels. Central London/​America Reducing inflation is central to the government’s economic policy. The apartment is very central—just five minutes from Princes Street. The car has power steering and a central locking system. The offices are in a central location. The organization has a central office in New York. What is the central truth of all his religious teaching? the central committee
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: central