- 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.
- a point, pivot, axis, etc., around which anything rotates or revolves: The sun is the center of the solar system.
- the source of an influence, action, force, etc.: the center of a problem.
- a point, place, person, etc., upon which interest, emotion, etc., focuses: His family is the center of his life.
- a principal point, place, or object: a shipping center.
- 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.
- an office or other facility providing a specific service or dealing with a particular emergency: a flood-relief center; a crisis center.
- a person, thing, group, etc., occupying the middle position, especially a body of troops.
- the core or middle of anything: chocolate candies with fruit centers.
- 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.
- shopping center.
- (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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ice Hockey. a player who participates in a face-off at the beginning of play.
- Baseball. center field.
- Physiology. a cluster of nerve cells governing a specific organic process: the vasomotor center.
- the mean position of a figure or system.
- the set of elements of a group that commute with every element of the group.
- 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)
- to place in or on a center: She centered the clock on the mantelpiece.
- to collect to or around a center; focus: He centered his novel on the Civil War.
- to determine or mark the center of: A small brass star centered the tabletop.
- 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.
- to place (an object, part, etc.) so as to be equidistant from all bordering or adjacent areas.
- Football. snap(def 21).
- to pass (a basketball, hockey puck, etc.) from any place along the periphery toward the middle of the playing area.
verb (used without object)
- to be at or come to a center.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- the US spelling of centre
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.
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.
- A point or place in the body that is equally distant from its sides or outer boundaries; the middle.
- A group of neurons in the central nervous system that control a particular function.
In addition to the idiom beginning with center
- center of attraction, the
- front and center