[ kahr-dn-l ]
See synonyms for: cardinalcardinalscardinally on

  1. Roman Catholic Church. a high ecclesiastic appointed by the pope to the College of Cardinals and ranking above every other ecclesiastic but the pope.

  2. any bird belonging to the genus Cardinalis of the family Cardinalidae (cardinal family), especially the common northern cardinal of North America, the male of which is bright red.

  1. any bird of the Americas belonging to the genus Piranga,Chlorothraupis, or Habia, including the scarlet tanager: these three genera were long considered part of the tanager family but are now classified as members of the cardinal family.

  2. Also called red-head·ed car·di·nal [red-hed-id kahr-dn-l] /ˈrɛdˌhɛd ɪd ˈkɑr dn l/ . any bird belonging to the genus Paroaria of the tanager family (Thraupidae), noted for drab plumage other than conspicuously red head parts: most common in South America, Paroaria species include the prominently crested P. coronata, which has been successfully introduced to Puerto Rico and Hawaii.

  3. Also called Med·i·ter·ra·ne·an frit·il·lar·y [med-i-tuh-rey-nee-uhn frit-l-er-ee] /ˌmɛd ɪ təˈreɪ ni ən ˈfrɪt lˌɛr i/ . a spotted, orange nymphalid butterfly with a green underside, Argynnis pandora, found throughout southern Europe and some adjoining regions of Asia and northern Africa.

  4. a deep, rich red color.

  5. a woman's short cloak with a hood, originally made of scarlet cloth and popularly worn in the 18th century.

  1. of prime importance; chief; principal: of cardinal significance.

  2. of the color cardinal.

Origin of cardinal

First recorded before 1150; Middle English, Old English, from Latin cardinālis, equivalent to cardin- (stem of cardō ) “hinge,” hence, something on which other things hinge + -ālis adjective suffix; see -al1

Other words from cardinal

  • car·di·nal·ly, adverb
  • car·di·nal·ship, noun
  • in·ter·car·di·nal, adjective
  • post·car·di·nal, adjective
  • sub·car·di·nal, adjective
  • sub·car·di·nal·ly, adverb
  • un·car·di·nal·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use cardinal in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for cardinal


/ (ˈkɑːdɪnəl) /

  1. RC Church any of the members of the Sacred College, ranking next after the pope, who elect the pope and act as his chief counsellors

  2. Also called: cardinal red a deep vivid red colour

  1. Also called: cardinal grosbeak, (US) redbird a crested North American bunting, Richmondena (or Pyrrhuloxia) cardinalis, the male of which has a bright red plumage and the female a brown one

  2. a fritillary butterfly, Pandoriana pandora, found in meadows of southern Europe

  3. a woman's hooded shoulder cape worn in the 17th and 18th centuries

  1. (usually prenominal) fundamentally important; principal: cardinal sin

  2. of a deep vivid red colour

  1. astrology of or relating to the signs Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn: Compare mutable (def. 2), fixed (def. 10)

Origin of cardinal

C13: from Latin cardinālis, literally: relating to a hinge, hence, that on which something depends, principal, from cardō hinge

Derived forms of cardinal

  • cardinally, adverb

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012