A key (object designed to open and close a lock)
A numeric keypad with 16 keys
The keys of a musical keyboard.
Etymology 1 
From Middle English keye, kaye, keiȝe, from Old English cǣġ, cǣġe, cǣga (“key, solution, experiment”), from Proto-Germanic *kēgaz (“stake, post, pole”), from Proto-Indo-European *ǵogh-, *ǵegh- (“branch, stake, bush”), related to Old English cǣggian (“to lock, shut”). Cognate with Scots key, kay (“key”), West Frisian kaai (“key”), North Frisian kay (“key”), Middle Low German kāk (“whipping post, pillory”), and perhaps to Middle Dutch keige (“javelin, spear”), Middle Low German keie, keige (“spear”). For the semantic development, note that medieval keys were simply long poles (ending in a hook) with which a crossbar obstructing a door from the inside could be removed from the outside, by lifting it through a hole in the door.
key (plural keys)
- An object designed to open and close a lock.
- An object designed to fit between two other objects (such as a shaft and a wheel) in a mechanism and maintain their relative orientation.
- A crucial step or requirement.
- the key to solving this problem...
- the key to winning this game
- A guide explaining the symbols or terminology of a map or chart; a legend.
- The key says that A stands for the accounting department.
- A guide to the correct answers of a worksheet or test.
- Some students cheated by using the answer key.
- (computing) One of several small, usually square buttons on a typewriter or computer keyboard, mostly corresponding to text characters.
- Press the Escape key.
- (music) One of a number of rectangular moving parts on a piano or musical keyboard, each causing a particular sound or note to be produced.
- (music) One of various levers on a musical instrument used to select notes, such as a lever opening a hole on a woodwind.
- (music) A hierarchical scale of musical notes on which a composition is based
- the key of B-flat major
- (historical) A manual electrical switching device primarily used for the transmission of Morse code.
- (cryptography) A piece of information (e.g. a passphrase) used to encode or decode a message or messages.
- (computing) In a relational database, a field used as an index into another table (not necessarily unique).
- (computing) A value that uniquely identifies an entry in an associative array.
- (basketball) The free-throw lane together with the circle surrounding the free-throw line, the free-throw lane having formerly been narrower, giving the area the shape of a skeleton key hole.
- He shoots from the top of the key.
- (biology) A series of logically organized groups of discriminating information which aims to allow the user to correctly identify a taxon.
- (slang) kilogram
- 2010, David J. Silas, Da Block (page 41)
- So starting with ten keys of cocaine and two keys of heroin, Derrick put his plan in motion. Soon every major drug dealer and gang chief from Chicago Avenue to Evanston was in his pocket.
Derived terms 
device designed to open and close a lock
- Abkhaz: please add this translation if you can
- Afrikaans: sleutel (af)
- Albanian: çelës (sq) m
- Amharic: ቁልፍ (am) (qulf) m and f
- Arabic: مفتاح (ar) (mifftaḥ) m
- Egyptian Arabic: مفتاح (mufftaḥ)
- Aragonese: please add this translation if you can
- Armenian: բանալի (hy) (banali)
- Aromanian: cljaie (rup) f
- Assamese: please add this translation if you can
- Asturian: llave (ast) f
- Avar: please add this translation if you can
- Azeri: açar (az)
- Bashkir: асҡыс (asqıs)
- Basque: please add this translation if you can
- Belarusian: ключ (be) (ključ) m
- Bengali: চাবি (bn) (cābi)
- Breton: alc'hwez (br) m
- Bulgarian: ключ (bg) (ključ) m
- Burmese: သော့တံ (my) (tho. dan)
- Catalan: clau (ca) f
- Central Atlas Tamazight: ⵜⴰⵙⴰⵔⵓⵜ (tasarut) f
- Chechen: please add this translation if you can
- Cherokee: ᏍᏚᎢᏍᏗ (chr) (sduisdi)
- Mandarin: 鑰匙 (cmn), 钥匙 (cmn) (yàoshi)
- Chuvash: ҫӑраҫҫи
- Bohairic: ϣⲟⲩϣϯ (shusht) m
- Sahidic: ϣⲟϣϯ (shosht) m
- Czech: klíč (cs) m
- Dalmatian: cluf f
- Danish: nøgle (da) c
- Dutch: sleutel (nl) m
- Esperanto: ŝlosilo (eo)
- Estonian: võti (et), klahv (et), toon (et)
- Faroese: lykil (fo) m
- Finnish: avain (fi)
- French: clef (fr) f, clé (fr) f
- Old French: clef f
- Friulian: clâv
- Galician: chave (gl) f
- Gallo: tié f
- Georgian: გასაღები (ka) (gasaḡebi)
- German: Schlüssel (de) m
- Greek: κλειδί (el) (kleidí) n
- Gujarati: ચાવી (gu) (yāvī)
- Hawaiian: kī
- Hebrew: מפתח (he) (mafteah) m
- Hindi: ताली (hi) (tālī) f, चाबी (hi) (cābī) f
- Hungarian: kulcs (hu)
- Icelandic: lykill (is) m
- Ido: klefo (io)
- Igbo: ìgòdó
- Indonesian: kunci (id)
- Interlingua: please add this translation if you can
- Interlingue: please add this translation if you can
- Irish: eochair (ga) f
- Italian: chiave (it) f
- Japanese: 鍵 (ja) (かぎ, kagi)
- Kannada: ಬೀಗದ ಕೈ (kn) (bīgada kai), ಕೀಲಿಕೈ (kn) (kīlikai), ಚಾವಿ (kn) (cāvi)
- Kazakh: кілт (kk) (kilt)
- Khmer: កូនសោ (km) (koon sao)
- Korean: 열쇠 (ko) (yeolsoe)
- Kurdish: kilîl (ku) m, kilîd (ku) m, mift (ku) m, enextar (ku) m, کلیل (ku)
- Kyrgyz: ачкыч (ky) (açkıç)
- Lao: ຂໍກະແຈ (lo), ກະແຈ (lo)
- Latin: clavis (la) f
- Latvian: atslēga (lv) f
- Lithuanian: raktas (lt) m
- Luganda: please add this translation if you can
- Luxembourgish: Schlëssel (lb) m
- Macedonian: клуч (mk) (kluč) m
- Malay: kunci (ms)
- Malayalam: താക്കോല് (ml) (tākkōl)
- Maltese: cavetta (mt) f
- Manx: ogher (gv) f
- Maori: kī (mi)
- Marathi: चावी (mr) (cāvī), किल्ली (mr) (killi) f
- Mirandese: please add this translation if you can
- Mongolian: түлхүүр (mn) (tülhüür)
- Nepali: please add this translation if you can
- Fadicca: كوشر (koushur)
- Kenzi: كوشر (koushur)
- Norwegian: nøkkel (no) m
- Novial: please add this translation if you can
- Occitan: clau (oc) f
- Old English: cǣġ (ang) f
- Old Frisian: sletel
- Old Norse: lykill m
- Oriya: please add this translation if you can
- Ossetian: please add this translation if you can
- Ottoman Turkish: مفتاح (miftah), مفاتيح (mefâtih) pl, آناختار (ānāḫtār)
- Pashto: please add this translation if you can
- Persian: کلید (fa) (kelid) f
- Polish: klucz (pl) m
- Portuguese: chave (pt) f
- Punjabi: ਕੁੰਜੀ (pa) (kuṃjī)
- Rajasthani: please add this translation if you can
- Romagnol: cêv
- Romanian: cheie (ro) f
- Romansch: clav (rm)
- Russian: ключ (ru) (ključ) m
- Sardinian: ciae (sc), ciai (sc)
- Scots: please add this translation if you can
- Scottish Gaelic: iuchair (gd) f
- Cyrillic: кључ (sh) m
- Roman: ključ (sh) m
- Sicilian: chiàvi (scn)
- Sindhi: please add this translation if you can
- Sinhalese: යතුර (si) (yatura)
- Slovak: kľúč (sk) m
- Slovene: ključ (sl) m
- Somali: please add this translation if you can
- Spanish: llave (es) f
- Swahili: ufunguo (sw) 11/14, funguo (sw) 14 pl
- Swedish: nyckel (sv) c
- Tagalog: ( literally) susi (tl) n
- Tajik: калид (tg) (kalid)
- Tamil: சாலி (ta), சாவி (ta) (sāvi)
- Tatar: ачкыч (tt) (açqıç)
- Telugu: తాళంచెవి (te) (tāḷaṃcevi), బీగంచెవి (te) (bīgaṃcevi)
- Thai: กุญแจ (th) (goonjàe)
- Tibetan: ལྡེ་མིག (bo) (lde mig)
- Turkish: anahtar (tr), açar (tr)
- Turkmen: açar (tk)
- Tuvan: дүлгүүр (dülgüür)
- Ukrainian: ключ (uk) (ključ) m
- Urdu: تالی (ur) (tālī) f, چابی (ur) (cābī) f
- Uyghur: ئاچقۇچ (ug) (achquch)
- Uzbek: kalit (uz)
- Vietnamese: chìa khoá (vi), khoá (vi)
- Volapük: kik (vo)
- Votic: võtii
- Walloon: please add this translation if you can
- Welsh: allwedd (cy) f, agoriad (cy) m
- West Frisian: kaai (fy)
- Yiddish: שליסל (yi) (shlisl) m
object used to maintain the orientation between two others
small guide explaining symbols or terminology
button on a typewriter or computer keyboard
part of a piano or musical keyboard
device used to transmit Morse code
cryptography: piece of information used to encode or decode
computing: field of a database constrained to be unique
computing: field in a record used as a search argument
computing: value uniquely identifying entry in associative array
biology: information to correctly identify a taxon — see clavis
- The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.
Translations to be checked
See also 
key (comparative more key, superlative most key)
- Indispensable, supremely important.
- He is the key player for his soccer team.
- Important, salient.
- She makes several key points.
- 2006, Edwin Black, chapter 2, Internal Combustion:
- Throughout the 1500s, the populace roiled over a constellation of grievances of which the forest emerged as a key focal point. The popular late Middle Ages fictional character Robin Hood, dressed in green to symbolize the forest, dodged fines for forest offenses and stole from the rich to give to the poor. But his appeal was painfully real and embodied the struggle over wood.
- 2011 September 29, Jon Smith, “Tottenham 3 - 1 Shamrock Rovers”, BBC Sport:
- With the north London derby to come at the weekend, Spurs boss Harry Redknapp opted to rest many of his key players, although he brought back Aaron Lennon after a month out through injury.
Usage notes 
The first meaning is distinguished by the definite article, as seen in the quotations.
key (third-person singular simple present keys, present participle keying, simple past and past participle keyed)
- To fit (a lock) with a key.
- To fit (pieces of a mechanical assembly) with a key to maintain the orientation between them.
- To mark or indicate with a symbol indicating membership in a class.
- 1996 January, Garden Dsign Ideas, second printing, Taunton Press, ISBN 1561580791, page 25,
- So I worked on a tissue-paper copy of the perimeter plan, outlining groupings of plants of the same species and keying them with letters for the species.
- 2001, Bruce M. Metzger, The Bible in Translation, ISBN 0801022827, page 87,
- The volume closes with thirty pages of "Notes, critical and explanatory," in which Thomson provides seventy-six longer or shorter notes keyed to specific sections of the synopsis.
- 2002, Karen Bromley, Stretching Students' Vocabulary, ISBN 0439288398, page 12,
- Talk about similarities between the words and write them below to the left of the anchor, keying them with a plus sign (+). Talk about the characteristics that set the words apart and list them below the box to the right, keying them with a tilde sign (~).
- 2007, Stephen Blake Mettee, Michelle Doland, and Doris Hall, compilers, The American Directory of Writer's Guidelines, 6th ("2007–2008") edition, ISBN 1884956580, page 757,
- Indicate the comparative value of each heading by keying it with a number in pencil, in the left margin, as follows: […]
- (telegraphy and radio telegraphy) To depress (a telegraph key).
- (radio) To operate (the transmitter switch of a two-way radio).
- (computing) (more usually to key in) To enter (information) by typing on a keyboard or keypad.
- Our instructor told us to key in our user IDs.
- (colloquial) To vandalize (a car, etc.) by scratching with an implement such as a key.
- He keyed the car that had taken his parking spot.
- To link (as one might do with a key or legend).
- 1960, Richard L. Masland, "Classification of the Epilepsies", in Epilepsia, volume 1, page 516,
- The American Heart Association has prepared their own guide to classification and, keying it with the Standard Nomenclature of Diseases, have done much to encourage a concise yet complete diagnosis.
- 1976, Nicholas Askounes Ashford, Crisis in the Workplace: Occupational Disease and Injury, page 19:
- The workman's compensation system rests on incentives (premium payments) that are keyed to the immediate and relatively undeniable nature of injuries; […]
- 2006, Deborah Blum, Mary Knudson and Robin Marantz Henig, A Field Guide for Science Writers: The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers, page 63:
- It also features special issues on "Live Longer, Better, Wiser," men's health, women's health, and issues keyed to important "disease weeks."
- (intransitive) (biology, chiefly taxonomy) To be identified as a certain taxon when using a key.
Derived terms 
fit (pieces of a mechanical assembly) with a key
telegraphy: depress (a telegraph key)
radio: operate (transmitter switch of a two-way radio)
computing: enter (information)
Etymology 2 
Variant of cay, from Spanish cayo.
Alternative forms 
key (plural keys)
- One of a string of small islands.
- "the Florida Keys"
- (Soranî Kurdish) when
Derived terms