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  1. of or forming the center: the central hut in the village.
  2. in, at, or near the center: a central position.
  3. constituting something from which other related things proceed or upon which they depend: a central office.
  4. principal; chief; dominant: the play's central character.
  5. Anatomy, Zoology.
    1. of or relating to the central nervous system.
    2. of or relating to the centrum of a vertebra.
  6. Phonetics. (of a speech sound) produced with the tongue articulating neither expressly forward nor in the back part of the mouth, as any of the sounds of lull.
  7. Physics. (of a force) directed to or from a fixed point.
  1. (formerly)
    1. a main telephone exchange.
    2. a telephone operator at such an exchange.

Origin of central

1640–50; < Latin centrālis, equivalent to centr(um) center + -ālis -al1
Related formscen·tral·ly, adverb

Synonyms for central

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[sen-trahl; Spanish sen-trahl]
noun, plural cen·trals, Spanish cen·tra·les [sen-trah-les] /sɛnˈtrɑ lɛs/.
  1. (in Spanish America and the Philippines) a mill for crushing cane into raw sugar.

Origin of central

< American Spanish, special use of Spanish central central1


[sen-truh l]
  1. a region in central Scotland. 1016 sq. mi. (2631 sq. km).
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for central


  1. in, at, of, from, containing, or forming the centre of somethingthe central street in a city; the central material of a golf ball
  2. main, principal, or chief; most importantthe central cause of a problem
    1. of or relating to the central nervous system
    2. of or relating to the centrum of a vertebra
  3. of, relating to, or denoting a vowel articulated with the tongue held in an intermediate position halfway between the positions for back and front vowels, as for the a of English soda
  4. (of a force) directed from or towards a point
  5. informal (immediately postpositive) used to describe a place where a specified thing, quality, etc is to be found in abundancenostalgia central
Derived Formscentrally, 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

Word Origin and History for central

1640s, from French central or directly from Latin centralis "pertaining to a center," from centrum (see center (n.)). Centrally is attested perhaps as early as early 15c., which might imply a usage of central earlier than the attested date.

Slightly older is centric (1580s). As a U.S. colloquial noun for "central telephone exchange," first recorded 1889 (hence, "Hello, Central?"). Central processing unit attested from 1961. Central America is attested from 1826.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper