Main definitions of key in English

: key1key2

key1

noun

  • 1A small piece of shaped metal with incisions cut to fit the wards of a particular lock, which is inserted into a lock and turned to open or close it.

    • ‘Later on I realized I had lost my keys and Bernie found them in the sand, about fifteen feet away from where we were sitting.’
    • ‘Peterson glared at him as he pulled a house key from his jacket pocket.’
    • ‘He pulled the keys out, opened the door and slammed it closed.’
    • ‘I fished out my keys, opened the door, and let him in.’
    • ‘When David Brooke arrived the curtains were closed and the keys were inside the door lock.’
    • ‘But Moore had a set of keys, so he opened the door for himself.’
    • ‘Ryan turned his house key in the door and followed Katalyn inside.’
    • ‘I inserted my key into the lock and opened the door, listening for telltale sounds.’
    • ‘He bent down and pushed the key into the keyhole.’
    • ‘Maria fiddled with the keys, trying to open the lock to the door of her yellow convertible.’
    • ‘It will be a far cry from North Sea Camp open prison where inmates have keys to their own rooms.’
    • ‘Then they tried to use the keys to open the door but put the wrong key in the lock.’
    • ‘He walked me to the door and I fumbled with my keys before opening it.’
    • ‘Gone forever are the enormous key rings with the bunches of clanging keys carried by the prison officers.’
    • ‘It took him a few minutes to find the right key and open the lock.’
    • ‘Thieves are only too happy to look out for people leaving their doors open and keys on show.’
    • ‘From her pockets, she produced a key and inserted the key into the door, opening it.’
    • ‘When he reached her door, he turned the spare key in the lock and walked inside.’
    • ‘In the recovery room and three theatres, the drugs cupboards had been opened using force and the metal cupboards inside had been opened with keys.’
    • ‘He also made a large key for the door of Sheriff Hutton Hall.’
    1. 1.1 A small, shaped metal implement for operating a switch in the form of a lock, especially one operating the ignition of a motor vehicle.
      • ‘When police stopped him his car engine was switched off and the keys were in the ignition and he was sitting in the driver's seat.’
      • ‘Now he reached for the keys, turned the ignition key and waited, half-expecting the car not to start.’
      • ‘I am now car-less and about £2,000 out of pocket, as I don't think that the insurance will pay out as I had left the keys in the ignition.’
      • ‘She put the keys into the ignition and sped off into the night, trying to find something to concentrate on besides her disturbing memories.’
      • ‘There are systems already installed in our vehicles to warn us that we have left our headlights on or our keys in the ignition.’
      • ‘Anytime we flip a switch, turn a key in the ignition, or mail a letter, we expect something to happen.’
      • ‘Thieves have been preying on motorists who leave their keys in the ignition and engines running to defrost their cars.’
      • ‘Alysha took the keys out of the ignition and locked the car.’
      • ‘Lucas shifted the car into park before pulling the keys from the ignition.’
      • ‘Twist the key in the ignition and the engine doesn't so much explode into life as dutifully and modestly clear its throat.’
      • ‘The key was in the ignition and Jessie was about to pull out of the parking lot, when she stopped.’
      • ‘I put the keys in the ignition and backed out of the driveway.’
      • ‘Figuring they'd be arguing for awhile, she just pulled the keys out of the ignition and leaned back across the seat, looking her son in the eye.’
      • ‘She turned the key in the ignition and they left Pickering Beach, driving west.’
      • ‘He also grabbed the car keys from the ignition to prevent them driving off.’
      • ‘Because it was a secluded spot with no-one else around she left the keys in the ignition with the engine running.’
      • ‘I put everything back in the bag, grabbed my keys out of the ignition, locked the doors, slung the bag over my shoulder and waited.’
      • ‘I sighed with relief before sliding into the jeep and slipping the keys in the ignition.’
      • ‘He swerved into his parking space on the dock, took his key out of the ignition, locked the car and ran up to the ship.’
      • ‘He switched the keys in the ignition and the car started to roar.’
    2. 1.2
      short for key card
    3. 1.3 An instrument for grasping and turning a screw, peg, or nut, especially one for winding a clock or turning a valve.
      • ‘The front of the tail mount is attached the keel and the back is elevated, plus there is no screw key below the keel.’
      • ‘Slotted stems are turned with a screwdriver and square ones are turned with a radiator key.’
      • ‘Remove adjusting keys and wrenches from tool before turning it on.’
      • ‘The clock does work, you wind it up with a key and it has a clear ringing double chime and right now it is keeping time.’
      • ‘It later serviced the local textile industry, but then found a niche with the water industry, making valve keys for reservoirs and water mains.’
      • ‘Along the same line are the T-shaped hex tools with vinyl grips and L-shaped keys for greater torque power.’
      • ‘Threats of police action to obtain the clock winding key were made recently.’
      • ‘Use a lag-screw system that includes a special key that can sink or retrieve the screw.’
    4. 1.4 A pin, bolt, or wedge inserted between other pieces, or fitting into a hole or space designed for it, so as to lock parts together.
      • ‘Depending on the type of block you are using, there is typically some sort of key that locks one row to the row below it.’
      • ‘In the box you also get a well-written manual, a bag of drive rails, a large collection of screws/standoffs and the keys for the side panel.’
      • ‘A cotter key fits in the two holes I drilled at the bottom and holds it open or shut.’
      • ‘Opening the bubble-wrap we find the main unit, an instruction leaflet and a small bag with the screws and 2 keys.’
  • 2Each of several buttons on a panel for operating a computer, typewriter, or telephone.

    • ‘The arrow key is directional I think - you click up to select ones above your current one, left to move to the left.’
    • ‘It means that if you can press keys on a keyboard, you have what is required to create your very own webpage!’
    • ‘In today's information era, personal data is increasingly difficult to hide from the clicks of computer keys.’
    • ‘Minnie tapped a few keys on the keyboard and clicked the mouse.’
    • ‘Do I release the Wednesday update now and slink away, or just hammer the keys until I have something worth posting?’
    • ‘You must use the number keys in the numeric keypad on the left of your keyboard.’
    • ‘He punched a few keys on his computer and swiveled the monitor towards me.’
    • ‘Several frenzied hits on the F5 key seemed to have brought things back to my most recent post.’
    • ‘The function keys are smaller then normal, resembling the half-size keys found in many laptop keyboards.’
    • ‘In the background, as I pound away at the keys on my computer, the second half of the Sunday-night Bucs-Bears game has just begun.’
    • ‘And so when it comes time to locate their inner novelist, or just write letters, they like to hear the sound of hammering keys and the ding of a bell when they reach the end of a line.’
    • ‘Finally, he pressed the enter key on the last keypad.’
    • ‘He heard the light tapping of keys, and opened his eyes to find that Dan was sprawled on the floor, working on his laptop.’
    • ‘To ensure that the computer remains in Standby, do not move the mouse or press any keys on your keyboard.’
    • ‘During scanning, volunteers pressed a computer key to indicate that they detected an odor.’
    • ‘You will find yourself accidentally hitting the Alt and delete keys quite a bit.’
    • ‘Tom furrowed his brow and tapped a few keys on his computer.’
    • ‘The Apple had a simple keyboard that only had upper case letters and only two arrow keys.’
    • ‘Both Shift keys and the Return and Backspace keys are full size, which is always good to see.’
    • ‘The participants initiated the trials by pressing any of the keys on the computer keyboard.’
    1. 2.1 A lever depressed by the finger in playing an instrument such as the organ, piano, flute, or concertina.
      • ‘As she sang, her back straightened up and she resumed her normal regal posture as her fingers pounded the keys of the piano in front of her.’
      • ‘There will also be convertibles to drive to the countryside, horses to ride on the beach, piano keys to tickle, and tennis balls to swat.’
      • ‘He doesn't reply but softly touches the keys of the piano.’
      • ‘The recordings capture the sound of his fingers on the keys, the depression of the pedals, and the click of the microphone as it turns off.’
      • ‘Consequently, holly is often used for the black keys on pianos and organs and for the pegs and fingerboards on violins.’
      • ‘The placement of the pianist's fingers on the keys also will affect dynamics to a certain degree.’
      • ‘Her fingers stilled on the keys as the piano strings stopped their vibrations and the lounge was silent again.’
      • ‘Sara was intently studying the ivory and black keys of the piano.’
      • ‘He was obviously very passionate about his music as he sat behind his piano lightly fingering the keys for a brief moment.’
      • ‘Sitting down, she glided her fingers across the piano keys.’
      • ‘She began the lyrical melody, her fingers flowing over the keys without thought, her body swaying to the lilting melody of the music.’
      • ‘His fingers sailed across the piano keys as he sang with all the feeling that he could muster.’
      • ‘This last model is for more serious keyboard players who need the approximate feel of a piano's heavier keys under their fingers.’
      • ‘Beth brought her fingers to the flute keys and played the first run of the piece.’
      • ‘Anna could barely reach the piano keys when she started showing signs of a rare musical ability.’
      • ‘Even today, I can laugh and cry and express anger through my fingers on piano keys.’
      • ‘In the corner was a piano, polished keys glittering under white light and two guitars - an acoustic and an electric.’
      • ‘These ratios produce the eight notes of an octave in the musical scale corresponding to the white keys on a piano.’
      • ‘There are twelve half-tones (black and white keys on a piano), or steps, in an octave.’
      • ‘I walked out into the hall and ran my fingers over the piano keys.’
    2. 2.2 A lever operating a mechanical device for making or breaking an electric circuit, for example in telegraphy.
      • ‘Using the Morse key, operators at the stations were able to communicate with the world 24 hours a day.’
      • ‘She had learned to shoot a pistol, crawl under barbed wire, tap out gibberish on a Morse key.’
      • ‘A woman sits at a telegraph key and rattles Morse code along a wire.’
  • 3A thing that provides a means of gaining access to or understanding something.

    ‘the key to Jack's behavior may lie submerged in his unhappy past’
    • ‘The key to raising the achievement of these boys is good teaching.’
    • ‘Education is the key to a future for humankind, especially for a healthier humankind with a suitable replacement rate.’
    • ‘In the case of the stockmarket, the key to achieving good capital growth is profitability.’
    • ‘Investment in higher education is the key to our future.’
    • ‘Dr Bracken said the key to providing a good service was time - and that was often in short supply.’
    • ‘The key is to plan a fun event early in the year that features activities the family will enjoy.’
    • ‘Moderation is the key to success when training your legs and glutes.’
    • ‘The inscription is therefore credited as one of the keys to opening up the thousands of years of Egyptian history.’
    • ‘We strongly support our volunteer local organizing committees, whose good will and hard work are the keys to success.’
    • ‘Secondly, I was always of the opinion that the key to empowering women was to provide them with choice.’
    • ‘This awareness will provide the key to tracking animals, both human and otherwise.’
    • ‘In a recent commencement address, she gave graduates a few keys to being a well-rounded person.’
    • ‘But as he explains, it is this hardship that provides a key to understanding the spirit and culture of these tribes.’
    • ‘When exfoliating, the key is to remove the dead skin cells but leave healthy ones intact.’
    • ‘In this it seems to me he is correct and has come up with a vital key to our understanding of Elgar.’
    • ‘Universal responsibility is the real key to human survival.’
    • ‘In my view these statements provide a significant key to the resolution of the issue before me.’
    • ‘Clark, who is a former champion, said consistency was the key to their victory.’
    • ‘The Dalai Lama once said that simplicity is the key to happiness in the modern world.’
    • ‘Their motivation provides a key to the distinctive nature of modern terrorism.’
    answer, clue, solution, explanation, pointer, cue, lead
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1 An explanatory list of symbols used in a map, table, etc.
      • ‘In fact, as will be obvious to any reader who has ever used an index, the symbols in the key refer to the chapters in which the characters appear.’
      • ‘References to pertinent illustrations are noted within the keys to help the user visualize and clarify the plant anatomy in question.’
      • ‘References within the tables themselves are listed in a key below each individual Appendix.’
      • ‘For the reader who is not familiar with Soviet map symbols, there is a key in the back of the book.’
      • ‘There is extensive use of place names without accompanying maps throughout the book, and many of the maps provided lack keys and scales.’
    2. 3.2 A set of answers to exercises or problems.
      • ‘Then, she tried the drawer of the desk that she knew the test answer key was hidden in.’
      • ‘A good open-ended question should include a detailed answer key for the person marking the paper.’
      • ‘If there are no answer keys, compare your answers against those of some friends of yours who are also doing the practice competitions.’
      • ‘In North Carolina, no one at the school has access to the answer key or to grading the essays on our state tests.’
      • ‘If there are keys for answers, check what your child will be learning and see if it's in a skill that will be called for.’
      • ‘So, be careful with this CD-ROM set as you should be with the answer key in any math textbook.’
      • ‘There are many ways of cheating on standardized tests other than doctoring the answer keys or even using questions from the test in class exercises.’
      • ‘After the teaching tips and 175 daily lessons, there's a set of workbook answer keys, tests and quiz drill sheets.’
      • ‘The classroom teacher rated each test using answer keys, while the second author independently scored all tests.’
      • ‘Answer keys for tests and practice problems are found in each chapter.’
      • ‘I have been trying to get my hands on that answer key for several years, and kept getting turned down.’
      • ‘My music students have those same moments because they, too, have the answer key.’
    3. 3.3 A word or system for solving a cipher or code.
      • ‘Your report says that she has the code keys memorized.’
      • ‘The encryption keys are sent over dedicated links, and the messages ciphered with those keys are transmitted over the Internet.’
      • ‘Cryptographic keys and iris code reside in the smart card.’
      • ‘How could you get a secret encryption key to someone in cyberspace?’
      • ‘Asymmetric encryption relies on two keys that work together as a pair an encryption key and a decryption key.’
      • ‘The strongest of all cipher systems require a random key as long as the message that's being sent.’
      • ‘British agents broke into the Spanish Embassy in Washington and stole the keys to their ciphers, enabling Bletchley Park to crack the Spanish codes.’
      • ‘More recent viruses and blended threats also extract passwords, decryption keys and logged keystrokes.’
      • ‘The ‘DaVinci code’ of the title refers to cryptic keys supposedly incorporated by Leonardo da Vinci into his art.’
      • ‘Quantum cryptography systems discard these corrupt keys and only use codes that are known to be secure.’
      • ‘Stream ciphers are essentially practical adaptations of the Vernam Cipher with small keys.’
    4. 3.4 The first move in the solution of a chess problem.
      • ‘The key is whether the defensive king can get within the promotion ‘square’.’
    5. 3.5Computing A field in a record which is used to identify that record uniquely.
      • ‘The optional TYPE part of the foreign key name is used to support multiple keys to the same TABLE FIELD.’
  • 4Music
    A group of notes based on a particular note and comprising a scale, regarded as forming the tonal basis of a piece or passage of music.

    ‘the key of E minor’
    • ‘At this point I wish Mr Gibb had written it in a slightly lower key, but what is good enough for Barbra Streisand is good enough for me.’
    • ‘Transposition is explained in a concise manner on the last page, making it easy for students to learn how to play these exercises in other keys.’
    • ‘The first section scampers about in a happy fashion but darkens suddenly in the key of D minor.’
    • ‘Today, I am only going to listen to music played in major keys.’
    • ‘The pieces are all arranged as short, two-page pieces in the keys of C, F, G, D and B-flat major.’
    • ‘In my profession it may even be disadvantageous because it happens that we play a piece in a different key.’
    tone, pitch, timbre, tonality, tone colour, modulation
    View synonyms
    1. 4.1 The tone or pitch of someone's voice.
      ‘his voice had changed to a lower key’
      • ‘She tried to keep her voice down to a calm key.’
      • ‘Madame Lebrun was bustling in and out, giving orders in a high key to a yard-boy.’
    2. 4.2 The prevailing tone or tenor of a piece of writing, situation, etc.
      ‘it was like the sixties all over again, in a new, more austerely intellectual key’
      • ‘Kingsley plays Ford in a near-hysterical key throughout, his jealousy tinged with full-blown paranoia.’
      • ‘Burke comments in a more sombre key that ‘We may have spent several centuries not seeing the wood for the trees’.’
      • ‘Described in the press notes as ‘a love story in a minor key,’ this will certainly strike a chord with fans of character drama.’
      • ‘The language of religion will return towards the end of his life, but in a different key, in his final collection of poems.’
      style, character, mood, vein, spirit, feel, feeling, flavour, quality, humour, atmosphere
      View synonyms
    3. 4.3 The prevailing range of tones or intensities in a painting.
      ‘these mauves, lime greens, and saffron yellows recall the high key of El Greco's palette’
      • ‘The technique gives a high key but a reduced range of brightness.’
      • ‘Embodying the high key of colour associated with Rubénisme, it nevertheless belongs to the tradition of monumental mural painting begun by Le Brun.’
      • ‘Canaletto began to turn out views which were more topographically accurate, set in a higher key, and with smoother handling.’
      • ‘Because of the dots and the diagonal lines and unmodulated color, I work in a color key that I love to play with.’
  • 5The dry winged fruit of an ash, maple, or sycamore maple, typically growing in bunches; a samara.

    • ‘Visitors were not allowed to use pens or pencils but to use other media such as twigs, sycamore keys and string, among other things, with Indian ink to make marks.’
  • 6The part of a first coat of wall plaster that passes between the laths and so secures the rest.

    • ‘If the surface was primed with DG27, this first coat should be thick enough to cover over all of the key.’
    1. 6.1in singular The roughness of a surface, helping the adhesion of plaster or other material.
      • ‘The nibs help to secure the plaster to the lattice, reinforcing the key or bond between plaster and wood.’
      • ‘Scratch the render to form a key and, the next day, fill flush with a slightly weaker mix.’
      • ‘Some rock lath was textured or perforated to provide a key for wet plaster.’
  • 7The keyhole-shaped area marked on the court near each basket, comprising the free-throw circle and the foul line.

    • ‘Steph's no-look pass from the top of the key last night was one of the top 10 plays of the year so far.’
    • ‘The post player nearest the ball is the one to break and set a screen for the guard near the top of the key.’
    • ‘If you want, you can stand near the top of the key and make the players go around you.’
    • ‘Oregon retrieved the opening tip, and Flash dribbled down the court and hit a three from the top of the key.’
    • ‘Well, the post away from the ball gets a pick and then breaks across the key.’

adjective

  • Of paramount or crucial importance.

    ‘she became a key figure in the suffragette movement’
    • ‘There are also moments when the emotional responses of key characters in key situations completely fail to ring true.’
    • ‘On top of that the web-based form error checked itself, prompting you to fill in key information.’
    • ‘York Council is already covering the costs of storing the lights and paying for Christmas lighting in key city centre locations.’
    • ‘Both sides were short a number of key players for this important match.’
    • ‘In particular, the size of the local catchment area will be key.’
    • ‘The Republicans also won a series of major victories in key congressional races.’
    • ‘We could do with a couple of key professionals in key positions.’
    • ‘The intention is to make the city a centre of innovation in key technologies and the authorities are betting heavily on it.’
    • ‘After only three years the business now consists of several different companies - all operating in key markets.’
    • ‘One of Alexander's key decisions will be whether to build airport rail links, and, if so, which one to build first.’
    • ‘Before discussing our findings, it is important to consider key limitations of the study.’
    • ‘They say that in this case, some of the people who are retiring are in key positions.’
    • ‘By focusing on key events and the figures central to those events, you make women as good as invisible, runs the argument.’
    • ‘Still of key importance, the zone remains staffed by eight dedicated professionals.’
    • ‘Tournaments like this have made paintball what it is today through high exposure in key North American cities.’
    • ‘His friendships with key figures in government go back decades.’
    • ‘Yesterday public schools in Yorkshire blamed the rises on a dramatic increase in key costs faced by all institutions.’
    • ‘Child psychologists are being brought into a borough's schools in a bid to pull up performance in key tests and exams.’
    • ‘I scored it a draw, with probably little overall effect on the race nationally and in key states.’
    • ‘But they paid the price for conceding too many penalties and making too many basic errors in key situations.’
    crucial, central, essential, indispensable, basic, fundamental, pivotal, critical, decisive, dominant, vital, principal, salient, prime, chief, major, leading, main, important, significant
    View synonyms

verb

[WITH OBJECT]
  • 1Enter or operate on (data) by means of a computer keyboard or telephone keypad.

    ‘she keyed in a series of commands’
    no object ‘a hacker caused considerable disruption after keying into a vital database’
    • ‘Seconds later, Susan was already standing behind Pete's screen, checking through the codes that Pete had keyed in.’
    • ‘As they effortlessly key in the words there is not even an iota of confusion among them.’
    • ‘Riddell's compositions had to be manually translated from graphic scores into very low-level information that could be keyed into the computer.’
    • ‘He moved over to his console again and keyed in a few commands.’
    • ‘AIB transactions are conducted at the Post Office counter, via a dedicated pinpad through which the customer keys in their secret code.’
    • ‘I reckon since I arrived and purchased my mobile phone I have keyed in and later deleted at least 25 numbers.’
    • ‘Pics have to be uploaded directly from my laptop using the connection at home - while the words are better keyed in from an internet cafe.’
    • ‘Thus, anyone who drops in should feel free to type in a question so that it will be keyed up when I return.’
    • ‘She took ages to key in her PIN, took ages to decide what she wanted.’
    • ‘A digital image of the check is then taken and the system verifies the amount matches the one the customer keyed in.’
    • ‘Doctor Slater finished writing out several prescriptions, then keyed in the pharmacy delivery passwords and nodded as the confirmation was displayed.’
    • ‘Even in 2005, historical data sometimes has to be keyed in by hand!’
    • ‘She keyed in her numbers then took her card when it popped back out.’
    • ‘The details will already be keyed into the computer and forwarded to the pharmacy of their choice.’
    • ‘Whatever they keyed in was read back to them by the computer, complete with any wrong spellings, which encouraged them to make sure everything was correct.’
    • ‘Hundreds of shoppers took advantage of a discount scheme - in compensation for late delivery - for which they keyed in an individual code.’
    • ‘Zack rubs his hands together as John keys in some data on his terminal.’
    • ‘Whenever I keyed in my password my fingers shook.’
    • ‘Start by creating the keywords you would key into a search engine to find a website like yours.’
    • ‘Within 30 seconds of being keyed in, applications can be viewed on-screen by the hiring company.’
  • 2usually be keyedFasten (something) in position with a pin, wedge, or bolt.

    ‘the coils may be keyed into the slots by fiber wedges’
    • ‘Immovably keyed upon the cranked shaft is a heavy wooden cone pulley.’
    • ‘Since the crank is keyed to the pin, I'll have to arrange for each pin to come out of its main driver, rotated as far behind the vertical center-line as it is forward, then pressed back in.’
    • ‘With small machines, the core plates are keyed direct to the shaft.’
  • 3Roughen (a surface) to help the adhesion of plaster or other material.

    • ‘Where no keying mix or bonding agent is specified, wet smooth concrete surfaces immediately before plastering.’
    • ‘If the piece is varnished or painted, sand it well to remove most of the finish and key the surface.’
  • 4Word (an advertisement in a particular periodical), typically by varying the form of the address given, so as to identify the publication generating particular responses.

    • ‘But the firm makes much of its money from selling advertising space keyed to the words for which its users search.’
  • 5informal Vandalize a car by scraping the paint from it with a key.

    ‘somebody could key your car and not get punished’
    • ‘My car had been keyed and my kids had been verbally assaulted after accidentally hitting the neighbour's window with a snowball.’
    • ‘Again, the car did its job with confident ease and didn't get keyed in the car park.’
    • ‘I couldn't come up with anything that wouldn't get my car keyed or otherwise vandalized in the middle of the night.’
    • ‘For the girl ranting about keying SUVs. I'm so glad you've decided to fight against people's destructive actions with such a constructive solution.’
  • 6North American informal Be the crucial factor in achieving.

    ‘Ewing keyed a 73–35 advantage on the boards with twenty rebounds’
    • ‘Charleton's 23 points and Neufeld's 22 points keyed SFU's offensive attack.’
    • ‘The run was keyed by the re-entry into the game of forward Mike Sovran, a fifth year co-captain, who scored seven points in that span.’
    • ‘Kaczowka keyed the offensive attack with 21 points and nine rebounds, while point guard Dani Langford contributed 15 points and eight assists.’
    • ‘The Clan attack was keyed by Jessica Kaczowka and Teresa Kleindienst.’

Phrases

  • in (or out of) key

    • In (or out of) harmony.

      ‘this vaguely uplifting conclusion is out of key with the body of his book’
      • ‘Unless you've never stopped, you'll have to rediscover this voice to properly extend your range, stop straining your vocal chords and singing out of key.’
      • ‘I can express myself vocally and I can stay in key, but I don't think I have such an awesome voice.’
      • ‘Every song is sure to be awesome and sung out of key.’
      • ‘I mean, people singing along to songs, even horribly out of key, is better than groups of people talking loudly in some sort of strange choir.’
      • ‘Here, though, they're wavering, sliding in and out of key.’
      • ‘The highlight of my night occurred when three math majors sang ‘Like a Virgin’ horribly out of key.’
      • ‘The secretary of the Bradford branch of the union said: ‘If you get this wrong a whole group of schools can be totally out of key.’’
      • ‘This would last until a major fight broke out over who had the best voice… or because one of us had said the other was out of key or whatever.’
      • ‘Many felt even this would have been an over-development, out of key with other planning studies and proposals, which have proposed lower buildings.’
      • ‘The saxophonist plays one of his own improvisations, deliberately falling out of key, catching himself.’
  • under lock and key

    • Securely locked up.

      • ‘This does not mean they will be scarred for life, and short of keeping your progeny under lock and key, you can't guarantee that they will never see anything you would rather they didn't.’
      • ‘For anthropologists Thailand is a very difficult country to gather information on because much of it remains under lock and key, not for decades but for centuries.’
      • ‘That can mean storing formulas under lock and key or having employees sign confidentiality agreements.’
      • ‘All our major players are signed up on relatively long contracts so they are effectively under lock and key.’
      • ‘‘In the end, I can't keep him under lock and key forever,’ she said.’
      • ‘Today's gun owner keeps his - or, increasingly, her - guns under lock and key, whether in a safe or locked with a gunlock.’
      • ‘Is it a question of women being literally held as slave captive in the physical sense, living behind bars, under lock and key, or is it a question of something more subtle?’
      • ‘Afterwards it will once again be under lock and key, behind a shatterproof, bulletproof, glass window, away from prying fingers.’
      • ‘The farmers are appealing to all dog owners in the area to make sure their dogs are chained or under lock and key especially at night time when most of the damage seems to take place.’
      • ‘So everyone should make sure that their dogs are under lock and key at night and on a lead when taken out in public places because the dog warden will, no doubt, be busy over the next few weeks.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • key someone/something into (or in with)

    • Cause someone or something to be in harmony with.

      ‘to those who are keyed into his lunatic sense of humor, the arrival of any Bergman movie is a major comic event’
      • ‘Last night I was trying to key you into some of the wisdom we have accumulated through this close-knit project of ours.’
      • ‘She is keyed into the American mainstream and she asks the questions we would all ask if presented with the opportunity to question celebrities.’
      • ‘Beloved smells that key you into positive memories and experience can be all the difference you need.’
      • ‘Sometimes a title or a word will key me into the deeper store house of memories, dreams helping to project them into the music.’
      • ‘He slums about the town with his friends, falls in and out of drug addiction and keys us into the whole process.’
      • ‘I was hoping that there might be something in there that would key me into the problem.’
      • ‘Your supervisor is a major resource who can key you into the dynamics of the organization and external factors that may affect your plans or area of responsibility.’
      • ‘Make no mistake, I'm fully keyed into the instant world.’
      • ‘The issues that conference committees ask presenters to address can often key you into trends in the field.’
      • ‘I am sure you have something precious in your world which can key you into a harmonious vibration.’
      • ‘Do it until a single word or image is enough to key you into that state of being - emulate Pavlov's dogs.’
      • ‘At once he keys us into his position by speaking of language as an instrument that we, its masters, can choose to play in whatever way we wish.’
      • ‘She's selling singles by new/unsigned bands she's discovered to people who are already keyed into her tastes and likes.’
      • ‘But like it or not, we will have to be keyed into the world economy in the years to come.’
      • ‘His to-the-camera monologues are absolutely the best thing about the film (for those who aren't keyed into the Manchester music scene, that is).’
      • ‘It is a poignant passage that will stand the test of time and key you into meanings of shadow and redemption.’
  • key something to

    • Make something fit in with or be linked to.

      ‘this optimism is keyed to the possibility that the US might lead in the research field’
      • ‘This symbol may come in the shape of a broach, lapel pin, medallion, anything imaginable, but it is keyed to its owner and allows them certain abilities.’
      • ‘I'm looking for everything on a specific keyword, and if some store is keyed to that word I'm going to get their stuff.’
      • ‘The researchers speculate that misbehaviors are keyed to ‘perceptions of inequities in the science resource distribution’ process.’
      • ‘The numbers above the heads of the passengers are keyed to lines of dialogue recorded below.’
      • ‘Many of these regulations are keyed to specific resources within ecological systems rather than to addressing the system as a whole.’
      • ‘It invites us to join the melodrama, keying our responses to the silly excess of the movie itself.’
      • ‘The recall module is keyed to a preselected sound.’
      • ‘For texts which authors and publishers wish to keep free of superscript symbols, endnotes are keyed to such points of reference as page numbers or repeat identifying phrases from the text.’
      • ‘To help users locate these features, each item on this list was keyed to a geometric grid that was overprinted on the face of the maps.’
      • ‘The Google search engine has paid advertising, and it is keyed to the object of a user's search.’
      • ‘Look at your tax form - the explanatory guide that comes with it is keyed to the T1 form.’
      • ‘Bureaucratic incentives aren't keyed to getting jobs for those on welfare.’
      • ‘The displays seem to resonate with the public, especially if the themes are keyed to their cities' histories, Clark said.’
      • ‘The interest rate may go up or down over the years, and it is keyed to a financial market index.’
      • ‘The extensive end notes are keyed to each chapter.’
      • ‘His work, because it is keyed to the environment in which he performs, has never been recorded because he has felt that this presentation would minimize the impact of his performance.’
      • ‘From a teaching point of view, therefore, the manual is excellent and, although it is keyed to a particular package, I think it would be a very good teaching tool.’
      • ‘Rather than being keyed to clinical care it is keyed to other activities that the university wishes, such as academic things (especially peer reviewed papers).’
      • ‘The clavicle (Latin for a little key) keys the shoulder blade to the breast bone.’
      • ‘There is indeed a digital divide in cyberculture studies, and, like the digital divide in on-line access, it is keyed to racial categories.’
  • be keyed up

    • Be nervous, tense, or excited, especially before an important event.

      • ‘It was much earlier than Jake usually got to his office, but he was keyed up, and hadn't been able to sleep.’
      • ‘At midnight when you get off work and you're all keyed up, I'm all worn out.’
      • ‘Johnny is keyed up about tomorrow, the Fourth of July: lots of fun times ahead for him and his family.’
      • ‘You had better believe that there were a number of golf pros who were keyed up a little bit more than usual.’
      • ‘Everyone was keyed up and had been worrying about my safety in getting from the station to the house.’
      • ‘The 28th Division was keyed up by a visit and inspection from their boss Eisenhower, certain in the knowledge that they were to be among the first to assault France.’
      • ‘And there's another reason why Priaulx is keyed up about the races at his home track: ‘I spent a long time at Silverstone as an instructor.’’
      • ‘I was vaguely tired, but a little too keyed up (or not interested enough) to take a nap.’
      • ‘You know, Ms. Jackson, I have really been keyed up about this interview, and I guess maybe it shows.’
      • ‘I was keyed up, pumped.’
      • ‘I tried a couple of times to get her to giggle hard enough to make her snort, but both of us were kind of keyed up so my attempts failed pretty miserably.’
      • ‘We had already been keyed up for the June 5 assault, and now we had another day of adrenalin rush to deal with.’
      • ‘Keyed up by months of training, we were anxious to go.’
      • ‘The guys are keyed up for the event.’
      • ‘Last Saturday night, we had friends over and I must have been keyed up because I couldn't fall asleep that night.’
      • ‘He was really keyed up, more excited than Dryden had ever seen him.’
      • ‘He's gently crinkling a beer can in his hand and I wouldn't say his eyes are dancing but he definitely looks keyed up about something.’
      • ‘After bath, brush and lotion, we were keyed up so it took about 20 minutes to calm down and go to sleep.’
      • ‘In it you can relax and let your guard down instead of being keyed up or on edge all the time.’
      • ‘Fresh off a successful concert on Saturday night, the talented Maria Dunn is keyed up about two gigs she has this weekend.’
      • ‘He did not do much against South Africa and therefore, would be keyed up to prove a point or two.’
      • ‘It was impossible to disguise the fact that Bolton was keyed up to an almost unbearable pitch.’
      • ‘They are certainly going to be keyed up.’
      • ‘The atmosphere was really good, everyone was keyed up and looking forward to the water fun.’
      • ‘The Venezuelans should be here any minute and this lobby full of reporters is keyed up and ready to pounce.’
      • ‘I allowed myself to be keyed up and nervous before I got here, but now I am here I focus on the business.’
      • ‘She was too keyed up to go back to sleep.’
      • ‘Lilly was too keyed up to pay attention to Heather's doses of sarcasm.’
      • ‘Not having visited the town since last year, he had been keyed up about what had meant to be a three-day trip.’
      • ‘Since I was keyed up from the day's preparations (working, packing, traveling), it took me a few hours to relax though.’

Origin

Old English cǣg, cǣge, of unknown origin.

Pronunciation

key

/ki//kē/

Main definitions of key in English

: key1key2

key2

noun

  • A low-lying island or reef, especially in the Caribbean.

    Compare with cay
    • ‘He was sentenced to life imprisonment at Fort Jefferson, a huge fort in the Dry Tortugas, islands 70 miles off the Florida keys.’
    • ‘Now, you'll appreciate that the Bahamas is an island chain of more than 700 islands and keys.’
    • ‘These flat and unexceptional little keys, just south of Cuba in the Northern Caribbean, enjoy the status of a tax haven.’
    • ‘People are urged to keep a close eye on this storm: mandatory evacuations already have been issued for Florida's keys.’
    • ‘Storm surge will also be a concern in southwest Florida, the keys, and the areas surrounding Lake Okeechobee.’
    • ‘A lot of people have already left the keys, along with some mainland residents.’

Origin

Late 17th century: from Spanish cayo ‘shoal, reef’, influenced by quay.

Pronunciation

key

/ki//kē/