principal

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English[edit]

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Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Latin principalis.

Pronunciation[edit]

  • IPA(key): /ˈprɪnsɪpəl/, /ˈprɪnsəpəl/
  • (US, nonstandard) IPA(key): /ˈprɪnsɪbəl/, /ˈprɪnsəbəl/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: prin‧ci‧pal
  • Homophone: principle

Adjective[edit]

principal (comparative more principal, superlative most principal)

  1. Primary; most important.
    Smith is the principal architect of this design.
    The principal cause of the failure was poor planning.
    • 1760 [1726], Homer, Alexander Pope, The Odyssey, Volume 2, page 217,
      In a word, the Epiſodes of Homer are complete Epiſodes; they are proper to the ſubject, because they are drawn from the ground of the fable; they are ſo joined to the principal action, that one is the neceſſary conſequence of the other, either truly or probably: and laſtly, they are imperfect members which do not make a complete and finiſhed body; for an Epiſode that makes a complete action, cannot be part of a principal action; as is eſſential to all Epiſodes.
    • 1995, Madeleine Cabos, Baedeker Paris, page 105,
      The principal treasure of ths department, however, is the Stele of Hammurabi (1792—1750 B.C.), king of the first Babylonian kingdom, a basalt cylinder 2.25m/7ft 5in. inscribed with Hammurabi′s laws written in Akkadian in cuneiform script.
    • 2005, Ruth N. Collins, Application of Phylogenetic Algorithms to Assess Rab Functional Relationships, Sidney P. Colowick, Alan Hall (editors), Methods in Enzymology, Volume 403, page 22,
      In theory, there are the same number of principal components as there are variables, but in practice, usually only a few of the principal components need to be identified to account for most of the data variance.
  2. (obsolete, Latinism) Of or relating to a prince; princely.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Spenser to this entry?)

Usage notes[edit]

Principal should not be confused with principle. Principle is always a noun, meaning "moral rule", which is sometimes erroneously used with the meaning of the adjective principal.

  • Incorrect: He is the principle musician in the band
  • Correct: He is the principal musician in the band

A mnemonic to avoid this confusion is "The principal alphabetic principle places A before E".

Principal is generally not used in the comparative or superlative in formal writing, as the meaning is already superlative. However, one may occasionally see, e.g., more principal meaning more likely to be principal or more nearly principal. There are similar issues with unique.

Synonyms[edit]

Related terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

Noun[edit]

principal (countable and uncountable, plural principals)

  1. (finance, uncountable) The money originally invested or loaned, on which basis interest and returns are calculated.
    A portion of your mortgage payment goes to reduce the principal, and the rest covers interest.
    • 1902, William Pember Reeves, State Experiments in Australia and New Zealand, Volume 1, 2011, Cambridge University Press, page 342,
      In March 1902, I find in the statement of liabilities and assets £711 put down as arrears of interest, but there is no entry of arrears of principal.
    • 2012, Denis Clifford, Plan Your Estate, 11th Edition, NOLO, US, page 298,
      For instance, in some states, dividends that have automatically been reinvested will be treated as principal.
    • 2012, Fred Steingold, Legal Forms for Starting & Running a Small Business, page 88,
      If you know the principal amount, the interest rate, and the number of years the payments will be made, you can consult an amortization calculator or schedule to arrive at the monthly payment.
  2. (North America, Australia, New Zealand) The chief administrator of a school.
    • 1971, Louis Kaplan, Education and Mental Health, page 413,
      The important administrative figure to the teacher is the school principal.
    • 2008, Brian Dive, The Accountable Leader: Developing Effective Leadership Through Managerial Accountability, page 212,
      The problem was neatly summed up by one principal in Australia who said recently: ‘There is no incentive for me to develop my best teachers to become my successor. []
    • 2009, Colin J. Marsh, Key Concepts for Understanding Curriculum, page 132,
      Now renamed Teaching Australia, its officers are undertaking exploratory steps in developing professional standards for school leaders. A National Standards Drafting Group of volunteer principals is currently drafting principal standards (Teaching Australia, 2007).
    • 2011, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2011-2012, page 45,
      Principals are now being held more accountable for the performance of students and teachers, while at the same time they are required to adhere to a growing number of government regulations.
  3. (UK, Scotland, Canada) The chief executive and chief academic officer of a university or college.
    • 1967, University of Edinburgh Graduates′ Association, University of Edinburgh Journal, Volumes 23-24, page 314,
      Unlike the students, Principal Robertson, who now resided almost alone in the College, continued to use the accistomed route on his visits to the Old Town; and it “became the joke of the day that from being the principal gate it had become only a gate for the Principal.”5
  4. (law) One who directs another (the agent) to act on one′s behalf.
    When an attorney represents a client, the client is the principal who permits the attorney, the client′s agent, to act on the client′s behalf.
    • 1958, American Law Institute. Restatement of the Law, Second: Agency 2d, Volume 7, page 533,
      The firm admitted the amount owed, but averred as an affirmative defense that it had hired the expert as an agent of a disclosed principal, the client.
    • 1966, Pan American Union, The Marketing Structure for Selected Processed Food Products: In Sweden, Denmark, Norway, The Federal Republic of Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom, page 34,
      A food broker has been defined as an independent sales agent who performs the services of negotiating the sale of food and/or grocery products for and on account of the seller as principal.
    • 2009, California Continuing Education of the Bar, California Probate Code, page 375,
      An attorney-in-fact has a duty to act solely in yhe interest of the principal and to avoid conflicts of interest.
  5. (law) The primary participant in a crime.
    • 1915, Eugene Allen Gilmore, Wiliam Charles Wermuth, Modern American Law, page 125,
      The accessories may be prosecuted, tried and punished, though the principal has not been prosecuted or has been acquitted.
  6. A company represented by a salesperson.
    My principal sells metal shims.
  7. (North America) A partner or owner of a business.
  8. (music) A diapason, a type of organ stop on a pipe organ.
  9. (architecture, engineering) The construction that gives shape and strength to a roof, generally a truss of timber or iron; or, loosely, the most important member of a piece of framing.
  10. The first two long feathers of a hawk's wing.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Spenser to this entry?)
    (Can we find and add a quotation of J. H. Walsh to this entry?)
  11. One of the turrets or pinnacles of waxwork and tapers with which the posts and centre of a funeral hearse were formerly crowned.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Oxf. Gloss. to this entry?)
  12. (obsolete) An essential point or rule; a principle.

Usage notes[edit]

Principal should not be confused with principle. They are both nouns, but principle means "moral rule", while principal may refer to a person or entity.

  • Incorrect: He is the principle of our school
  • Correct: He is the principal of our school

Synonyms[edit]

  • (original money invested or loaned):
  • (school administrator): headmaster, headmistress
  • (chief executive and chief academic officer of a university or college): dean
  • (one under whose direction and on whose behalf an agent acts): client
  • (company represented by a salesperson):
  • (primary participant in a crime): ringleader
  • (owner of or partner in a business): proprietor
  • (organ stop): diapason

Coordinate terms[edit]

  • (original money invested or loaned): interest
  • (school administrator): master, mistress
  • (chief executive and chief academic officer of a university or college): bursar
  • (primary participant in a crime): accessory

Related terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

See also[edit]


Catalan[edit]

Adjective[edit]

principal m, f (masculine and feminine plural principals)

  1. main; principal
    • a partir de l'any 1799 Urgias va ser un dels principals animadors del Parnàs Alguerès

French[edit]

Pronunciation[edit]

Adjective[edit]

principal m (feminine principale, masculine plural principaux, feminine plural principales)

  1. main; principal

Derived terms[edit]

Noun[edit]

principal m (plural principaux, feminine principale)

  1. what is most important
  2. principal (school administrator)
  3. (finance) principal (the money originally invested or loaned)

Galician[edit]

Adjective[edit]

principal m, f (plural principais)

  1. main, principal

Related terms[edit]


Portuguese[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Latin principālis (first; principal), from prīncipium (beginning).

Pronunciation[edit]

Adjective[edit]

principal m, f (plural principais; comparable)

  1. main; principal (most important)
  2. fundamental; essential
  3. (astronomy, of a heavenly body) having another body orbiting it
  4. (grammar, of a sentence) not subordinate

Synonyms[edit]

Antonyms[edit]

Noun[edit]

principal m (plural principais)

  1. prelate of a religious, educational or commercial institution

Synonyms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


Romanian[edit]

Etymology[edit]

French principal, Latin principalis

Adjective[edit]

principal 4 nom/acc forms

  1. principal, primary, chief, foremost

Declension[edit]

Synonyms[edit]

Antonyms[edit]


Spanish[edit]

Adjective[edit]

principal m, f (plural principales)

  1. main, most important
  2. essential

Derived terms[edit]

Noun[edit]

principal m (plural principales)

  1. chief, boss

Related terms[edit]


Swedish[edit]

Noun[edit]

principal c

  1. a principal; one who directs another (the agent) to act on one's behalf

Declension[edit]

See also[edit]