- (in a keyboard instrument) one of the levers that when depressed by the performer sets in motion the playing mechanism.
- (on a woodwind instrument) a metal lever that opens and closes a vent.
- the relationship perceived between all tones in a given unit of music and a single tone or a keynote; tonality.
- the principal tonality of a composition: a symphony in the key of C minor.
- the keynote or tonic of a scale.
- a device for opening and closing electrical contacts.
- a hand-operated switching device ordinarily formed of concealed spring contacts with an exposed handle or push button, capable of switching one or more parts of a circuit.
- to paint (a picture) in a given key.
- to adjust the colors in (a painting) to a particular hue: He keyed the painting to brown.
- Football. to watch the position and movements of an opponent in order to anticipate a play: The defensive backs keyed on the star receiver.
- Also key in on . to single out as of prime importance or interest; be intent on or obsessed with: a company that is keyed in on growth.
- to bring to a particular degree of intensity of feeling, excitement, energy, nervousness, agitation, etc.: keyed up over the impending test.
- to raise (a piece of masonry) by the insertion of a wedge or wedges.
- to raise (the haunches of an arch) by the insertion of a voussoir.
Idioms about key
Origin of key1
Words nearby key
Other definitions for key (2 of 4)
Origin of key2
Other definitions for key (3 of 4)
Origin of key3
Other definitions for key (4 of 4)
How to use key in a sentence
Some former and current officials say they do not think ex-Washington officials will move many voters in key states.
The latest decision is another blow to the third-party ticket and a win for Democrats, who worried that the Green Party could siphon votes from presidential nominee Joe Biden in the key battleground state.
In two cases, key reports were delayed, with officials suggesting their timing was for political reasons.The Trump administration’s politicization of coronavirus comes to a head|Aaron Blake|September 16, 2020|Washington Post
Nadia will play a key role in that, both for Slack and for our customers.Slack hires former Live Nation exec as new chief people officer|Michal Lev-Ram, writer|September 16, 2020|Fortune
With the pandemic still raging, key voters may not be willing to change the subject.Trump, in town hall, says he wouldn’t have done anything differently on pandemic|Colby Itkowitz, Josh Dawsey, Felicia Sonmez, John Wagner|September 16, 2020|Washington Post
Getting men to do their share of care and domestic work is a key overlooked strategy in reducing poverty.
By contrast, Solomon can tell us a great deal about what really changed the country—because at key moments, he was there.The Real Story Behind the Fight for Marriage Equality|E.J. Graff|December 30, 2014|DAILY BEAST
The second lesson is that no one writing before the twentieth century holds a key to our problems.
As with so many things, keeping screen time in moderate amounts seems key.Yes, Your Toddler Can Watch TV: The New Rules for Screen Time|Russell Saunders|December 26, 2014|DAILY BEAST
The opposition responded with a month-long Occupy Abay (like Occupy Wall St) campaign, in which Udaltsov was one of key figures.Behind Bars for the Holidays: 11 Political Prisoners We Want to See Free In 2015|Movements.Org|December 25, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Mr. Jones swung round a large iron key he held in his hand, and light dawned upon him.Elster's Folly|Mrs. Henry Wood
Mr. Collingwood, taking the key from his mother, locked the little door in the boarding, after them.The Boarded-Up House|Augusta Huiell Seaman
About her neck was hung a covered basket and a door-key; and Davy at once concluded that she was Sindbad's house-keeper.Davy and The Goblin|Charles E. Carryl
The girl smiled, and drew out a large key, and nodded, still smiling as she replaced it.Checkmate|Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
The friends were standing close to the wall; but on these sounds they moved away; and a key presently turned in the door.The Pastor's Fire-side Vol. 3 of 4|Jane Porter
British Dictionary definitions for key (1 of 3)
- Also called: tonality any of the 24 major and minor diatonic scales considered as a corpus of notes upon which a piece of music draws for its tonal framework
- the main tonal centre in an extended compositiona symphony in the key of F major
- the tonic of a major or minor scale
- See tuning key
- a hand-operated device for opening or closing a circuit or for switching circuits
- a hand-operated switch that is pressed to transmit coded signals, esp Morse code
Derived forms of keykeyless, adjective
Word Origin for key
British Dictionary definitions for key (2 of 3)
British Dictionary definitions for key (3 of 3)
Scientific definitions for key
Cultural definitions for key
The main or central note of a piece of music (or part of a piece of music). Each key has its own scale, beginning and ending on the note that defines the octave of the next scale. The key of C-major uses a scale that starts on C and uses only the white keys of the piano. In a piece composed in the key of C, the music is likely to end on the note C, and certain combinations of notes based on C will predominate.
Other Idioms and Phrases with key
In addition to the idiom beginning with key
- key up
- in key
- under lock and key