[ sen-ter ]
See synonyms for: centercenteredcenteringcenters on

  1. Geometry. the middle point, as the point within a circle or sphere equally distant from all points of the circumference or surface, or the point within a regular polygon equally distant from the vertices.

  2. a point, pivot, axis, etc., around which anything rotates or revolves: The sun is the center of the solar system.

  1. the source of an influence, action, force, etc.: the center of a problem.

  2. a point, place, person, etc., upon which interest, emotion, etc., focuses: His family is the center of his life.

  3. a principal point, place, or object: a shipping center.

  4. a building or part of a building used as a meeting place for a particular group or having facilities for certain activities: a youth center; The company has a complete recreation center in the basement.

  5. an office or other facility providing a specific service or dealing with a particular emergency: a flood-relief center; a crisis center.

  6. a person, thing, group, etc., occupying the middle position, especially a body of troops.

  7. the core or middle of anything: chocolate candies with fruit centers.

  8. a store or establishment devoted to a particular subject or hobby, carrying supplies, materials, tools, and books as well as offering guidance and advice: a garden center; a nutrition center.

  9. (usually initial capital letter)Government.

    • the part of a legislative assembly, especially in continental Europe, that sits in the center of the chamber, a position customarily assigned to members of the legislature who hold political views intermediate between those of the Right and Left.

    • the members of such an assembly who sit in the Center.

    • the political position of persons who hold moderate views.

    • politically moderate persons, taken collectively; Centrists; middle-of-the-roaders: Unfortunately, his homeland has always lacked a responsible Center.

  10. Football.

    • a lineman who occupies a position in the middle of the line and who puts the ball into play by tossing it between his legs to a back.

    • the position played by this lineman.

  11. Basketball.

    • a player who participates in a center jump.

    • the position of the player in the center of the court, where the center jump takes place at the beginning of play.

  12. Ice Hockey. a player who participates in a face-off at the beginning of play.

  13. Baseball. center field.

  14. Physiology. a cluster of nerve cells governing a specific organic process: the vasomotor center.

  15. Mathematics.

    • the mean position of a figure or system.

    • the set of elements of a group that commute with every element of the group.

  16. Machinery.

    • a tapered rod, mounted in the headstock spindle (live center ) or the tailstock spindle (dead center ) of a lathe, upon which the work to be turned is placed.

    • one of two similar points on some other machine, as a planing machine, enabling an object to be turned on its axis.

    • a tapered indentation, in a piece to be turned on a lathe, into which a center is fitted.

verb (used with object)
  1. to place in or on a center: She centered the clock on the mantelpiece.

  2. to collect to or around a center; focus: He centered his novel on the Civil War.

  1. to determine or mark the center of: A small brass star centered the tabletop.

  2. to adjust, shape, or modify (an object, part, etc.) so that its axis or the like is in a central or normal position: to center the lens of a telescope; to center the work on a lathe.

  3. to place (an object, part, etc.) so as to be equidistant from all bordering or adjacent areas.

  4. Football. snap (def. 22).

  5. to pass (a basketball, hockey puck, etc.) from any place along the periphery toward the middle of the playing area.

verb (used without object)
  1. to be at or come to a center.

  2. to come to a focus; converge; concentrate (followed by at, about, around, in, or on): The interest of the book centers specifically on the character of the eccentric hero. Political power in the town centers in the position of mayor.

  1. to gather or accumulate in a cluster; collect (followed by at, about, around, in, or on): Shops and municipal buildings center around the city square.

Idioms about center

  1. on center, from the centerline or midpoint of a structural member, an area of a plan, etc., to that of a similar member, area, etc.: The studs are set 30 inches on center.Abbreviation: o.c.

Origin of center

First recorded in 1325–75; variant of Middle English centre, from Latin centrum, from Greek kéntron “needle, spur, pivoting point in drawing a circle,” derivative of kenteîn “to sting”
  • Also especially British, cen·tre .

synonym study For center

1. See middle.

usage note For center

28. Although sometimes condemned for alleged illogicality, the phrases center about and center around have appeared in edited writing for more than a century to express the sense of gathering or collecting as if around a center: The objections center around the question of fiscal responsibility.

Opposites for center

Other words from center

  • cen·ter·a·ble, adjective
  • cen·ter·less, adjective
  • su·per·cen·ter, noun

Words Nearby center Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use center in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for center


/ (ˈsɛntə) /

noun, verb
  1. the US spelling of centre

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with center


In addition to the idiom beginning with center

  • center of attraction, the

also see:

  • front and center

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.