American English

Definition of central adjective from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1most 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. Thesaurusmainmajor key central principal chief primeThese words all describe something that is the largest or most important of its kind.main [only before noun] largest or most important:Turn left onto 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:Turn left onto 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 someone 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 (somewhat 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] (somewhat formal) most important:The principal reason for this omission is a 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 someone 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] (somewhat formal) most important:Malnutrition is the chief cause of preventable [only before noun] (somewhat 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. 2having power or control over other parts the central command (= of an army) The organization has a central office in Omaha.
  3. 3in the center of an area or object central California Central America/Europe/Asia There will be rain later in central and eastern parts of the country. the central area of the brain
  4. 4easily reached from many areas The apartment is in a central location—just five minutes from Main Street.
  5. 5(phonetics) (of a vowel) produced with the center of the tongue in a higher position than the front or the back compare back, front
noun [uncountable] (formal) the centrality of the family as a social institution
adverb The hotel is centrally located near all major attractions. a centrally planned economy Is the house centrally heated (= does it have central heating)?
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: central