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.
  3. the source of an influence, action, force, etc.: the center of a problem.
  4. a point, place, person, etc., upon which interest, emotion, etc., focuses: His family is the center of his life.
  5. a principal point, place, or object: a shipping center.
  6. 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.
  7. an office or other facility providing a specific service or dealing with a particular emergency: a flood-relief center; a crisis center.
  8. a person, thing, group, etc., occupying the middle position, especially a body of troops.
  9. the core or middle of anything: chocolate candies with fruit centers.
  10. 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.
  11. shopping center.
  12. (usually initial capital letter) Government.
    1. 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.
    2. the members of such an assembly who sit in the Center.
    3. the political position of persons who hold moderate views.
    4. politically moderate persons, taken collectively; Centrists; middle-of-the-roaders: Unfortunately, his homeland has always lacked a responsible Center.
  13. Football.
    1. 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.
    2. the position played by this lineman.
  14. Basketball.
    1. a player who participates in a center jump.
    2. the position of the player in the center of the court, where the center jump takes place at the beginning of play.
  15. Ice Hockey. a player who participates in a face-off at the beginning of play.
  16. Baseball. center field.
  17. Physiology. a cluster of nerve cells governing a specific organic process: the vasomotor center.
  18. Mathematics.
    1. the mean position of a figure or system.
    2. the set of elements of a group that commute with every element of the group.
  19. Machinery.
    1. 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.
    2. one of two similar points on some other machine, as a planing machine, enabling an object to be turned on its axis.
    3. 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.
  3. to determine or mark the center of: A small brass star centered the tabletop.
  4. 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.
  5. to place (an object, part, etc.) so as to be equidistant from all bordering or adjacent areas.
  6. Football. snap(def 21).
  7. 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.
  3. 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.
  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.
Also especially British, cen·tre.

Origin of center

1325–75; variant of Middle English centre < Latin centrum < Greek kéntron needle, spur, pivoting point in drawing a circle, derivative of kenteîn to sting
Related formscen·ter·a·ble, adjectivecen·ter·less, adjectivesu·per·cen·ter, noun

Synonyms for center

1. See middle.

Antonyms for center

1. edge.

Usage note

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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for centres

Contemporary Examples of centres

Historical Examples of centres

  • And these are the centres of society, on which it returns for fresh impulses.

    Essays, Second Series

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • "Prevention is better than cure," is the motto of these Centres.

    Another Sheaf

    John Galsworthy

  • In a hundred little ways these Centres give help and instruction.

    Another Sheaf

    John Galsworthy

  • The offices and banks in Milan are centres of incessant energy.

    Italy, the Magic Land

    Lilian Whiting

  • Plant your feet with the centres of the two heels in line with the target.

    Boy Scouts Handbook

    Boy Scouts of America

British Dictionary definitions for centres


noun, verb
  1. the US spelling of centre


  1. the Centre (ˈsɛntə) the sparsely inhabited central region of Australia
  2. (French sɑ̃trə) a region of central France: generally low-lying; drained chiefly by the Rivers Loire, Loir, and Cher


US center

  1. geometry
    1. the midpoint of any line or figure, esp the point within a circle or sphere that is equidistant from any point on the circumference or surface
    2. the point within a body through which a specified force may be considered to act, such as the centre of gravity
  2. the point, axis, or pivot about which a body rotates
  3. a point, area, or part that is approximately in the middle of a larger area or volume
  4. a place at which some specified activity is concentrateda shopping centre
  5. a person or thing that is a focus of interest
  6. a place of activity or influencea centre of power
  7. a person, group, policy, or thing in the middle
  8. (usually capital) politics
    1. a political party or group favouring moderation, esp the moderate members of a legislative assembly
    2. (as modifier)a Centre-Left alliance
  9. physiol any part of the central nervous system that regulates a specific functionrespiratory centre
  10. a bar with a conical point upon which a workpiece or part may be turned or ground
  11. a punch mark or small conical hole in a part to be drilled, which enables the point of the drill to be located accurately
  12. sport
    1. a player who plays in the middle of the forward line
    2. the act or an instance of passing the ball from a wing to the middle of the field, court, etc
  13. basketball
    1. the position of a player who jumps for the ball at the start of play
    2. the player in this position
  14. archery
    1. the ring around the bull's eye
    2. a shot that hits this ring
  1. to move towards, mark, put, or be at a centre
  2. (tr) to focus or bring togetherto centre one's thoughts
  3. (intr often foll by on) to have as a main point of view or themethe novel centred on crime
  4. (tr) to adjust or locate (a workpiece or part) using a centre
  5. (intr; foll by on or round) to have as a centre
  6. (tr) sport to pass (the ball) into the middle of the field or court

Word Origin for centre

C14: from Latin centrum the stationary point of a compass, from Greek kentron needle, from kentein to prick
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 centres


chiefly British English spelling of center (q.v.); for ending, see -re.



1590s, "to concentrate at a center," from center (n.). Related: Centered; centering. Meaning "to rest as at a center" is from 1620s. Sports sense of "to hit toward the center" is from 1890. To be centered on is from 1713. In combinations, -centered is attested by 1958.



late 14c., "middle point of a circle; point round which something revolves," from Old French centre (14c.), from Latin centrum "center," originally fixed point of the two points of a drafting compass, from Greek kentron "sharp point, goad, sting of a wasp," from kentein "stitch," from PIE root *kent- "to prick" (cf. Breton kentr "a spur," Welsh cethr "nail," Old High German hantag "sharp, pointed").

Figuratively from 1680s. Meaning "the middle of anything" attested from 1590s. Spelling with -re popularized in Britain by Johnson's dictionary (following Bailey's), though -er is older and was used by Shakespeare, Milton, and Pope. Center of gravity is recorded from 1650s. Center of attention is from 1868.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

centres in Medicine


  1. A point or place in the body that is equally distant from its sides or outer boundaries; the middle.
  2. A group of neurons in the central nervous system that control a particular function.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with centres


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.