Definition of key noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//kiː//
    ; NAmE NAmE//kiː//
    Using a computer, Reading music
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    tool for lock
  1. 1  a specially shaped piece of metal used for locking a door, starting a car, etc. to insert/turn the key in the lock the car keys a bunch of keys the spare key to the front door We'll have a duplicate key cut (= made). There's a special key for winding up this clock.
  2. most important thing
  3. 2  [usually singular] a thing that makes you able to understand or achieve something synonym secret key (to something) The key to success is preparation. key (to doing something) The driver of the car probably holds the key to solving the crime. (especially North American English) The key is, how long can the federal government control the inflation rate?
  4. on computer
  5. 3  any of the buttons that you press to operate a computer or typewriter Press the return key to enter the information. see also soft key See related entries: Using a computer
  6. on musical instrument
  7. 4  any of the wooden or metal parts that you press to play a piano and some other musical instruments
  8. music
  9. 5 a set of related notes, based on a particular note. Pieces of music are usually written mainly using a particular key a sonata in the key of E flat major This piece changes key many times. compare scale See related entries: Reading music
  10. answers
  11. 6  a set of answers to exercises or problems Check your answers in the key at the back of the book.
  12. on map
  13. 7an explanation of the symbols used on a map or plan Wordfindercompass, globe, GPS, grid, key, latitude, map, navigate, reference, scale
  14. see also low-key
    Word OriginOld English cǣg, cǣge, of unknown origin.Extra examples Can we try it in a lower key? F1 is the short-cut key for calling up help. First-time voters could hold the key to the election result. He fished a ring of keys out of his pocket. Hold down the Alt key while pressing the arrow keys. I slid the key into the lock and went in. I’d accidentally locked the keys in my car. I’ll get another key cut so that you can have one. Language is the key to understanding those around you. Robbie didn’t have a key for these doors. She hides a front door key in a flowerpot. She left a key with the neighbours/​neighbors. She must have used a key to get in. The key changes from C major to A minor. The key tells you what all the symbols mean. The piece changes key in the middle. The sound of keys jangling caught her attention. There are two sharps in the key signature of D major. They heard a key turn in the back door lock. What key is it in? You can find the symbols in the key at the bottom of the page. You have to close it with the key. You need a key to open the garage. a large bunch of keys a set of car keys the key of G major the key to the front door the key to the signs and symbols the top row of keys His hands flew over the piano keys and beautiful sounds filled the theatre. The key is, how long can the federal government control the inflation rate? The sonata was written in the key of E flat major.Idioms
    (keep something/put something/be) under lock and key
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    locked up safely somewhere; in prison We keep our valuables under lock and key. I will not rest until the murderer is under lock and key.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: key