Definition of center in US English:


(British centre)


  • 1The middle point of a circle or sphere, equidistant from every point on the circumference or surface.

    • ‘I nodded and stood up, making my way towards the center of the circle.’
    • ‘What is intriguing is that if we wish to determine the circle centers, we can do so as well.’
    • ‘She pushes it and the apple moves around her head as she stands still in the center of the circle created by its movement.’
    • ‘In crustacean larval eyes, the receptor array is tightly bunched into a sphere surrounding the geometrical center of the eye.’
    • ‘Certain courageous souls might spend the night keeping watch in the center of a circle of standing stones.’
    • ‘The center of the circle or sphere is the position of the n-mer.’
    • ‘Stepping into the center of the circle, she rotated, her feet blurring and her floor-length skirt lifting to her knees.’
    • ‘The pedal of the involute of a circle, with the centre as pedal point, is a Spiral of Archimedes.’
    • ‘Soon enough, the entire assembly of players had converged on the area around the oak, each straining to see into the center of the circle.’
    • ‘Any point on a straight line segment between points x and y is the point in common between two circles with centers x and y that have no interior points in common.’
    • ‘He then produced the talisman he had made, a large, deep-blue crystal held in the center of a circle of dark leather a span across.’
    • ‘His tall, gaunt, black-robed form was bent over the center of the circle, absorbed in something that only he could see.’
    • ‘His model was the epicycle-deferent model where the motion of the heavenly bodies was circular, but based on a number of circles whose centres travelled around circles.’
    • ‘This same man walked to the center of the circle of seats now and held his arms high so everyone could see him.’
    • ‘Kepler could not solve the problem but he believed that the densest packing of spheres would be attained if in each layer the centres of the spheres were above the centres of the holes in the layer below.’
    • ‘Measure its diameter (the width across the center of circle) with the ruler.’
    • ‘Then maintain that rhythm as you move into the center of the circle.’
    • ‘A single shaft of sunlight penetrated the canopy above, shining a yellow beam into the center of the circle.’
    • ‘Then c is the centre of the circle circumscribing the desired heptagon, and the construction is easily completed.’
    • ‘She was so angered by this thought that she had changed forms and was halfway to the center of the circle before she realized what she was doing.’
    1. 1.1 A point or part that is equally distant from all sides, ends, or surfaces of something.
      ‘the center of the ceiling’
      ‘the center of a vast territory’
      • ‘The zippers are in the under surface at the centre and near to each cross boom end for inspection purposes.’
      • ‘The membrane normal is oriented along the z axis, and the center of the bilayer is at Z = 0 A.’
      • ‘The peak in the center of this surface represented the large estimate of genetic variance in the E3 environment.’
      • ‘Each bike has the same measurement from saddle tip to the center of the stem/handlebar.’
      • ‘The mouth leads to the intestine and anus, which is located in the center of the aboral surface in regular echinoids.’
      • ‘Tyler walked over to the console and gripped the wheel attached to the center.’
      • ‘The center of the pole was thickest, the other two points tapering slightly before ending at a sharp point.’
      • ‘Touch the top center and the two side panels on the right at the same time.’
      • ‘Although this design does not border the field, it does have the advantage of intersecting the pivot head in the center of the field.’
      • ‘In the center of the hilt, above the blade, sat a lovely purple gem.’
      • ‘When touring the blues clubs of Chicago, it is best to stay around the centre and the north side of the city.’
      • ‘Mark a circle in the center of the paper to allow the air to pass through.’
      • ‘The divine figure suckling adolescents, the widest plaque and situated almost in the center, dominates this side.’
      • ‘Construction began with the assembly of a cylindrical structure deeply embedded in the center of the flat side of the asteroid.’
      • ‘The centre pleat on each side is a deep inverted box pleat which opens out when something largish is carried inside the bag.’
      • ‘Now the advantage of our car is that you can just put the rear seats down and lay everything out as it was in the centre and pull down side seats and carry on in a civilized manner.’
      • ‘A strong wind blew against his face as he walked into a dark room that was only lit by two simple torches side by side in the center of the square.’
      • ‘Thenix admitted, dialing his order into the pad on the center of the table.’
      • ‘This focusing of force is illustrated by the circle in the center of Figure 4.’
      • ‘Purchase a headlight for the front of your bike, and then attach it to the center of your handlebars or another location of your choosing.’
      middle, nucleus, heart, core, hub, pivot, kernel, eye, bosom
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    2. 1.2 A political party or group holding moderate opinions.
      • ‘In contrast, all the parties running from the centre through to the right are voting for a sensible approach and growth.’
      • ‘Although Kinnock began on the left, he took the Labour Party into the political centre.’
      • ‘Clinton was dragging his party closer to the center.’
      • ‘Though still opposing racism, he was moving to the political centre.’
      • ‘That's always been the objective of left of centre political parties.’
      • ‘But Giscard and Barre had difficulty in convincing the centre parties of the necessity of such policies.’
      • ‘Several people wrote to suggest that the Democrats actually are the center party these days, and there's a lot of truth in that.’
      • ‘As the only true centre party in this Parliament, New Zealand First wants to propose something new and different.’
      • ‘The party is often seen as a centre party because of its commitment to a mixed economy.’
      • ‘In Italy the working class is represented both by a centre New Labour type party and by the more radical Rifondazione Comunista.’
      • ‘These results are a sign of one side of the polarisation in European politics to the right and the left as the parties of the centre are seen not to deliver.’
      • ‘I ask that that member refer to this party, perhaps, as a party of the centre.’
      • ‘He has moved the Democratic party to the dynamic centre and much of the country has gone along.’
      • ‘The main points of the manifesto leave us in doubt that New Labour is at best a centre party and at worst, the Tories, except more organised.’
      • ‘Andrew Murray's statement today makes it certain a new centre party will emerge from the rubble of the Democrats.’
      • ‘He also borrowed from the playbooks of Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair by marching his party to the center.’
      • ‘The SDLP could offer to form a coalition with the unionists and centre parties, without Sinn Fein.’
      • ‘The first round of the French presidential election showed the extent of the collapse of the centre parties.’
      • ‘In England this has been affected by the rise of the centre party, in Scotland and Wales by the rise of nationalism.’
      • ‘If anyone's interested in donating a billion dollars to start up a nice sensible party of the center, just leave your email in comments.’
    3. 1.3 (in many sports) the middle player in a line or group.
      ‘many coaches instruct their center to charge viciously on all plays’
      • ‘Although the offensive line is without a center, it still is a formidable group.’
      • ‘The team also believes it is easier for McFarland to shed a center's block by lining up at an angle.’
      • ‘Two centers earned NBA Players of the Week awards for their performance last week.’
      • ‘The only question is whether he can handle the line calls a center must make.’
      • ‘Only two players - centers Erick Dampier and Adonal Foyle - have been with the team longer than Richardson and power forward Troy Murphy.’
    4. 1.4Basketball The player who is positioned near the basket and is typically tallest on the team.
      ‘only 10 centers averaged more than 10 points per game last year’
    5. 1.5 A core, such as the filling in a piece of chocolate.
      ‘truffles with liqueur centers’
      • ‘Here's the ‘correct’ answer: The chocolate centers of ‘plain’ M&Ms are cast in little molds.’
      • ‘In the confectionery industry today, fruit pastes appear to have been reduced to a minor role as centres for fondant, chocolates, and dragées.’
      • ‘Flatten each ball, put one part of filling in the centre and cover it to make an oval ball.’
      • ‘A chocolate bar unfortunately unavailable in the US, milk chocolate with little caramel centres.’
      • ‘Cool slightly, but serve still warm so the chocolate centre is still melted.’
    6. 1.6 A pivot or axis of rotation.
      ‘the galactic rotation of the solar system around the galactic center’
      • ‘The centres of rotation of these semicircular flows travel down the body.’
      • ‘Arp's evidence for galaxy formation by ejection of quasars from the centres of active galactic nuclei is extremely compelling.’
      • ‘The center of rotation for the displacement is located above the structure and in the waterside.’
      • ‘The effect of the torque depends on where, between the center of rotation and the outermost point, the initial force is applied.’
      • ‘The defender's leg could be likened to a pendulum with the hip as the center of rotation.’
      • ‘The elevator suddenly stopped in relation to the rotating centre of the mother ship.’
      • ‘In addition, reducing or eliminating the force produced by the inside wing alters the center of rotation of the roll.’
      • ‘A passenger rides in one of seven cars, each mounted near the edge of its own circular platform but free to pivot about the center.’
      • ‘A more exotic model posits the existence of small black holes not far from the supermassive one at the galactic center.’
      • ‘When a top spins, both the center and the circumference spin.’
      • ‘But suppose that as time goes on, all the black holes in a given galaxy eventually fall into a central black hole at the galactic center.’
      • ‘The trouble is that these polygons don't have a fixed center of rotation.’
      • ‘When objects move in circles of any size and at any speed, they create a new force that pushes outward, away from the center of rotation.’
      • ‘In fact, all the stars are moving, in orbit around the galactic center and also shifting relative to each other with their own peculiar velocity components.’
      • ‘An alternate proof may be obtained by holding edge AD fixed in the plane and using the Descartes principle of instantaneous centers of rotation.’
      • ‘He thus moved the universe from a Copernican Sun-centered system to a Sun located far from the galactic center in one of the spiral arms.’
      pivot, axis, fulcrum, centre, centre point
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    7. 1.7Baseball
      ‘he flied out to center’
      short for center field
    8. 1.8 A conical adjustable support for a workpiece in a lathe or similar machine.
      • ‘The primary use of a center in metalworking is to ensure concentric work is produced, this allows the workpiece to be transferred between operations without any loss of accuracy.’
      • ‘A center is also used to support longer work pieces where the cutting forces would deflect the work excessively, reducing the finish and accuracy of the workpiece, or creating a hazardous situation.’
      • ‘The term between centers refers to any machining operation where the job needs to be performed using centers.’
  • 2The point from which an activity or process is directed, or on which it is focused.

    ‘the city was a center of discontent’
    ‘two issues at the center of the health-care debate’
    • ‘However, for almost two centuries after Jesus' death, Bethlehem was a centre of paganism.’
    • ‘Times Square, normally a centre of frenetic activity, was deserted.’
    • ‘Lucknow was a centre of culture, celebrated for its poetry, drama, music and art.’
    • ‘Where once the Habsburg provinces had been among the most stable in Italy, they now became a centre of agitation.’
    • ‘In most towns the bus station is a center of activity, lying near the market and itself filled with vendors.’
    • ‘As a centre of art, Naples has played a major role in Italy since the end of the 13th century.’
    • ‘She belonged to a Benedictine monastery in Gundersheim which was a center of intellectual and religious activity.’
    • ‘He added that helping to transform Iraq into a centre of progress and peace ‘will make America safer’.’
    • ‘On your average weekday, it lives up to its reputation as a centre of culture.’
    • ‘The city is widely considered to be a centre of militant activity.’
    • ‘He was very gregarious and his home became a centre of activity for a variety of pursuits.’
    • ‘It shows that we can build on Kilkenny's heritage as a centre of medieval creativity.’
    • ‘Coventry developed from a significant centre of production to a centre of motor car activity by the beginning of the First World War.’
    • ‘Pumbeditha was for centuries a center of Jewish religious/intellectual activity.’
    • ‘In fact it was seen as a centre of academic excellence.’
    • ‘St. Wolfgang became a centre of operetta in the twentieth century.’
    • ‘It became a centre of the slave trade from the 16th century onwards.’
    • ‘Warsaw, which fell to Russia, became a centre of ballet activity.’
    • ‘But the idea is to cover media, advertising and the arts and to promote Melbourne as a centre of creativity.’
    • ‘We now need to consolidate and put Ireland on the map as a centre of post-production excellence.’
    foundation, basis, keystone, mainspring, mainstay, linchpin, bedrock, fundament, base, key, fundamental principle, main ingredient, central component, centrepiece, core, heart, centre, focus, crux, prop, backbone, anchor
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    1. 2.1 The most important place in the respect specified.
      ‘Geneva was then the center of the international world’
      • ‘People reported that in many areas the Marxist forums had proved a great success and had become centres of political debate.’
      • ‘As a result, new centres of power have surfaced.’
      • ‘But the mechanisms that insulated the centres of power from democratic control affected the Labour Party too, right from the start.’
      • ‘The dark areas on the surface are eruption centres.’
      • ‘Scotland is the centre of international attention more than at any time since it hosted the Commonwealth Games 20 years ago.’
  • 3A place or group of buildings where a specified activity is concentrated.

    ‘a center for medical research’
    ‘a shopping center’
    • ‘Company headquarters range from call and IT support centres to new technology research subsidiaries and biotech hubs.’
    • ‘Located in 19 cities, the centers are designed to open up the vast resources of the Internet to gays and lesbians nationwide.’
    • ‘Moore spent much of the week sitting next to Jimmy Carter in a private part of the convention centre's dress circle.’
    • ‘The disused school building could be a centre for the community to meet and for visitors to gather.’
    • ‘It is envisaged as a fully accessible cultural building and a centre for excellence in innovation.’
    • ‘John injured his knee and could not continue running to keep fit for his judo so the pair, who had always trained together, moved indoors onto the rowing machines at local fitness centres.’
    • ‘Hours away from Houston, our community is filling centers and churches; my daughter talks of the girl from New Orleans new to her class.’
    • ‘It will sell charity goods and film memorabilia, and will also double as an activity centre for terminally ill children.’
    • ‘There will also be a heavy goods testing centre, filling station and car wash.’
    • ‘A network of 15 centres could support about 22,000 of the 100,000 asylum seekers who come to Britain each year.’
    • ‘He will also carry out tests in the Dungarvan test centre while on rotation from Waterford.’
    • ‘Instead of plying the expressways, they now circle the inspection centres for confused accident victims to go to them.’
    • ‘A bus pass is recommended if you are going to bus to classes four out of five days a week and don't forget side treks to commercial centres for food, clothing and other necessities.’
    • ‘When play for the day was abandoned, Howell presented himself at the media centre for a press conference.’
    • ‘Morgan may have to wait months to find a rotation in a dialysis center with the care available at MCP.’
    • ‘Problems of language also surfaced at the refuge centres.’
    • ‘Lismore Council's parks manager Neil Moreton inspects the new surface around the transit centre.’
    • ‘More than one hundred local women were employed in the manufacture of these items at various South Side social centers.’
    • ‘Comprehensive information on adoption in England, including contact details for adoption agencies, post-adoption centres and support groups.’
    • ‘The army has arrested several local party leaders and raided the party's documentation centre.’
    establishment, centre, installation, place, depot, station, location, premises, site, post, base, camp
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  • 1be centered inno object Have or cause to have something as (a major concern or theme)

    ‘the case centers around the couple's adopted children’
    ‘the plot centers on two young men’
    with object ‘he is centering his discussion on an analysis of patterns of mortality’
    • ‘The idea of a film project centring on her and her music seemed to make great sense.’
    • ‘The focus-group discussions centered around perceived risks and benefits of early pregnancy.’
    • ‘His plan centers on increased support for renewable energy and for alternative motor fuels made from corn and soybeans.’
    • ‘Most of the discussions have centred around the future of the team and which players should be eligible to play for them.’
    focus, concentrate, pivot, hinge, be based
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    1. 1.1be centered in (of an activity) occur mainly in or around (a specified place)
      ‘the mercantile association was centered in northern Germany’
      • ‘A number of Jewish pressure groups, mainly centred in North America called for the book to be pulped.’
      • ‘But, at the moment, see I'm very much centred in the city because I'm busy.’
      • ‘More than 27,000 Australian and US personnel are participating in the biennial drill centred in central Queensland.’
      • ‘Consequently, by 1815 the countryside was again as rural as it had been a century earlier, and a reconstructed textile industry was later centred in towns.’
      • ‘It was actually formed by a number of scholars, mainly centred in Trinity College in Cambridge.’
      • ‘This old established family firm, with ten shops throughout the city and others centred in Haxby, Scarborough, Knaresborough and Leeds, served thousands of regular customers each week.’
      • ‘Their commitment to using regional production companies to make their programmes has ensured that the talent base has remained widespread and not centred in one particular city.’
      • ‘MidCentral District Health Board, centred in Palmerston North, does this successfully.’
      • ‘The cancer centre is centred in Sligo and cares for patients in the surrounding counties - Leitrim, Roscommon, Donegal, Mayo and West Cavan.’
      • ‘Since 1990, the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary have provided a day service, centred in Abbeyleix, for adults with intellectual disability.’
  • 2with object Place in the middle.

    ‘to center the needle, turn the knob’
    • ‘These pressure distributions apply a side force to the hammer piston which strives to center the hammer piston in the guide.’
    • ‘Center the nail in the nail slot and drive the nail straight in.’
    • ‘Place the keg on the scale and tilt it on its edge centering it in the middle of the scale.’
    1. 2.1American Football Pass the ball back from the ground to another player to begin a down; snap.
      • ‘Most long snappers look straight ahead right before they center the ball.’
      • ‘Patrik Elias centered a pass back to Arnott for the goal in double-overtime that made New Jersey the champions for the second time in six years.’
      • ‘They will pass or center the ball back and forth until a fair assessment has been made for each individual.’


The construction center around (as opposed to center on, or revolve around) has been denounced as incorrect and illogical since it first appeared in the mid 19th century. Although the phrase is common, it defies geometry by confusing the orbit with the fixed point: the earth revolves around (or its revolution centers on) the sun. A careful writer will use a precise expression, such as centers on, revolves around, concerns, or involves


Late Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin centrum, from Greek kentron ‘sharp point, stationary point of a pair of compasses’, related to kentein ‘to prick’.