[ prin-suh-puhl ]
/ ˈprɪn sə pəl /

WATCH NOW: Words Of A High School Principal

WATCH NOW: Words Of A High School Principal





Origin of principal

1250–1300; Middle English < Latin prīncipālis first, chief, equivalent to prīncip- (see prince) + -ālis -al1

Related forms

prin·ci·pal·ship, nounun·der·prin·ci·pal, noun

Can be confused

principal principle (see usage note at the current entry)

Synonym study

1. See capital1.

Usage note

The noun principle and the noun and adjective principal are often confused. Although pronounced alike, the words are not interchangeable in writing. A principle is broadly “a rule of action or conduct” ( His overriding principle is greed ) or “a fundamental doctrine or tenet” ( Their principles do not permit the use of alcoholic beverages ). The adjective principal has the general sense “chief, first, foremost”: My principal objection is the cost of the project. The noun principal has among other meanings “the head or director of a school” ( The faculty supported the principal in her negotiations with the board ) and “a capital sum, as distinguished from interest or profit” ( The monthly payments go mostly for interest, leaving the principal practically untouched ). Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for principal

British Dictionary definitions for principal


/ (ˈprɪnsɪpəl) /

adjective (prenominal)

first in importance, rank, value, etc; chief
denoting or relating to capital or property as opposed to interest, etc


Derived Forms

principalship, noun

Word Origin for principal

C13: via Old French from Latin principālis chief, from princeps chief man, prince


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

Culture definitions for principal


The original amount of money lent, not including profits and interest.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.