Definition of principal in US English:



  • 1First in order of importance; main.

    ‘the country's principal cities’
    • ‘In a recent VisitScotland survey, German, US and English visitors all cited Scotland's stunning scenery as their principal reason for holidaying in the country.’
    • ‘As every resident of central Massachusetts would have understood, that road continued to Boston, the capital city and principal port of the state.’
    • ‘In my view, the principal reason for its closure is that it is much more readily sold for building land and, being a larger site and unencumbered by green belt restrictions, was more likely to produce a tidy sum.’
    • ‘The Harris family also built a new detached kitchen directly behind the rear piazza and converted the fireplaces in the principal rooms of the main floor to coal.’
    • ‘Otherwise, Tozeur's main business lay in its 40,000 date palms, and the principal activity around the main square was waiting in the shade for time to pass.’
    • ‘Campaigners have launched a £3m appeal to save Manchester's John Rylands Library - and turn it into one of the city's principal attractions.’
    • ‘The tabloid revelations were, according to sources within Goodison Park, the principal reason why Rooney was so anxious to leave Merseyside before the transfer window closed.’
    • ‘Philadelphia was the new country's, principal city.’
    • ‘Disagreement among the circuits isn't uncommon, and is a principal reason that the Supreme Court will take a case for review.’
    • ‘The principal reason behind the healthy upturn in membership has been mainly due to the club's resolve to ensure an amiable environment in which women golfers of all abilities can thrive.’
    • ‘The principal reason that individuals, couples and ‘hard working families’ struggle to purchase a home is not Stamp Duty, but spiralling house prices.’
    • ‘The company blamed a growing trend towards home consumption as the principal reason for falling sales, although it also acknowledged the smoking ban was having an impact on draught beer sales.’
    • ‘For example, a capital city or principal centre can be inferred from its size, and from signs of central organization such as an archive, a mint, a palace and major religious buildings, or fortifications.’
    • ‘Adam's most ambitious interiors at Home House were the main staircase and the principal reception rooms on the second floor.’
    • ‘Many riders point to the adrenaline rush as the principal reason behind their fascination with the Harley; it's a feeling they describe as inexplicable.’
    • ‘The rail work to be completed by the end of 2005 will enable travel between Turkey's two principal cities in just over three hours, cutting in half the current time of six hours or more.’
    • ‘With the advent of jet travel, you don't need port cities as your principal contacts with the outside world: the ‘coast’ can move inland.’
    • ‘The station is one of the city's principal transport interchanges, with rail services, numerous bus routes and York's busiest taxi ranks.’
    • ‘Those living in the region's principal cities - Leeds, Bradford, Hull and Sheffield - will see their councils raise taxes by less than five per cent.’
    • ‘New York city remains the principal port of entry and site of settlement for new Jewish immigrants and this includes the Iranian, the Israeli and the Russian Jews.’
    main, chief, primary, leading, foremost, first, most important, predominant, dominant, prominent, most prominent
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  • 2(of money) denoting an original sum invested or lent.

    ‘the principal amount of your investment’
    • ‘Rio Algom issued units consisting of 25 common shares and a Debenture in the principal amount of $2,000.’
    • ‘An investor invests in the issuer the principal amount of the structured note component.’
    • ‘The Board gave its approval for the sale of $150,000,000 principal amount of accounts receivable.’
    • ‘The principal amount of all other debt is negotiable under the conditions of a world crisis as disastrous as the present one.’
    • ‘Corporate bonds usually pay annual interest on the bond and do not repay the principal amount until the bond's maturity.’
    • ‘It refers to the premium that must be paid by the borrower to the lender along with the principal amount as a condition for the loan or an extension in its maturity.’
    • ‘If you buy a bond and hold it until maturity, market risk is not a factor because your principal investment will be returned in full at maturity.’
    • ‘Our goal is to begin making such awards by next year, when the required principal amount has been reached.’
    • ‘However, the plaintiff was successful on obtaining judgment on the principal amount.’
    • ‘Inflation will erode the value of future coupon dollars and principal repayments; the real interest rate is the return after deducting inflation.’
    • ‘An investor who does not want to take risks with the principal amount invested should go in for fixed income investments (debt schemes).’
    • ‘Bondholders will also receive a redemption bonus of up to 16 per cent of the principal amount at maturity, depending on the 100 firms' credit performance.’
    • ‘They do this by offering investors a debt security that delivers interest payments and the security of principal repayment.’
    • ‘As the defendants chose to resist payment rather than to tender payment in the manner described above, they remain liable to pay interest on the outstanding principal amount of the Promissory Note.’


  • 1The person with the highest authority or most important position in an organization, institution, or group.

    ‘a design consultancy whose principal is based in San Francisco’
    • ‘The company has three principals, none of whom have strong accounting or financial backgrounds.’
    • ‘It may be necessary to explain that under a franchising system, a franchised business and the principal belong to different owners.’
    • ‘Paul Levesque, a principal at the management consulting firm MedStar Partners, identifies some key aspects of medical product development.’
    • ‘Stephen B. Wilcox, PhD, is founder and principal of Design Science Consulting Inc.’
    • ‘Marcus McCormack is the principal of many businesses in the Carlow area in the fields of auctioneering, insurance and financial services.’
    • ‘"It was a praiseworthy idea, " says Peter Buckland, principal in charge for Buckland & Taylor.’
    • ‘Through it all, the principals involved have kept more than profit margins at heart, they have kept both the community and charity within their sights.’
    • ‘In discussing the political and policy-making roles of the Civil Service we are primarily involved with the higher civil servants, that is, those at the level of principal or above.’
    • ‘She said: ‘Huntley gave a very, very specific reply that he would be reporting it to myself as his line manager or to the principal if anything was untoward.’’
    • ‘But at the end of the day he wasn't a principal in the administration.’
    • ‘While Aurik leads A T Kearney's Benelux unit, Jonk and Willen are principals at the consultancy firm.’
    • ‘When they returned to their headquarters in Welcome, N.C., Childress and the principals in his organization brainstormed.’
    • ‘From 1818 to 1820 he is not listed alone but as a principal in the firm of Munroe and Whiting.’
    • ‘Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz are senior partners and principals at LGE Performance Systems.’
    boss, chief, chief executive, chief executive officer, ceo, chairman, chairwoman, managing director, md, president, director, manager, employer, head, leader, ruler, controller
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    1. 1.1 The head of a school, college, or other educational institution.
      • ‘Then the principals and four educators from each school met with the program developers to discuss details about the program and set intervention dates.’
      • ‘College principals, head teachers and parents in Hampshire will today find out the details of the biggest shake-up to the country's education system in 60 years.’
      • ‘The proposed study was approved by the school superintendents, the school board, school nurses, principals, and teachers.’
      • ‘She is a distinguished educator and the principal of a women's college.’
      • ‘Low-performing schools need better principals and teachers.’
      • ‘The dip in applications this year will be a further blow to principals, many of whom are struggling to fill vacancies caused by teachers retiring, bowing out early and leaving the job to go into other careers.’
      • ‘The authors wish to thank the teachers and principals who participated in this study.’
      • ‘School principals and instructional facilitators were also interviewed in-depth to understand the impact of the program on the school as a whole.’
      • ‘But principals are concerned at delays in a review of the staffing system proposed last year, as they want to know their allocations in time to make appointments for September.’
      • ‘Many charter principals still teach, while principals at traditional public schools are a decade or more out of the classroom.’
      • ‘Like teachers, principals can also use critical reflection and journaling to assess their expectations of first-year teachers and for the school community.’
      • ‘Both the principals and the teachers need to see the value of including special needs students.’
      • ‘In the end, principals and teachers should leave these experiences with a renewed sense of faith in the transformative power of schools in children's lives.’
      • ‘The school principal nominates cooperating teachers, who then supervise and mentor the preservice bilingual teacher.’
      • ‘The authors analyze the data gathered in interviews with district officials, principals, and teachers in the same five largest school districts in the state.’
      • ‘Communities often have articulated that what they want is their people trained as teachers and educators and eventually as principals to work in their schools.’
      • ‘Teachers and principals at this school continue to be influenced by certain socio-political factors.’
      • ‘The college will appoint an acting principal before filling the position full time.’
      • ‘They are grateful to the various school principals, teachers and pupils who made the programme a success.’
      • ‘Recently, efforts also have been made to assess teachers, principals, and schools, although not systematically.’
      head teacher, head, headmaster, headmistress, director
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    2. 1.2 The leading performer in a concert, play, ballet, or opera.
      • ‘So many principals and chorus members shone that it's impossible to mention everyone: for me the best were Sam Parry, Adriana Gentile, Daniela Laughlin and Vahan Salorian.’
      • ‘It is astonishing to think that the same opera house recorded the same work twice in the course of six months, but with a completely different cast of principals and a different conductor.’
      • ‘Aside from the principals, the supporting cast is extraordinary.’
      • ‘The maturity of the voices among the principals was amazing for performers all under 18, over fifty in number.’
      • ‘In 1971 she joined the Matsuyama Ballet Company in Tokyo as a principal, eventually becoming prima ballerina.’
      • ‘Rehearsals are well underway at the moment with chorus and principals rehearsing in Kilmacowen Drama Centre and Ransboro school.’
      • ‘What you see is essentially the stage production, but it's full of color and energy, and the principals all deliver creditable performances.’
      • ‘Born in Poland, the Czech twin dancers have been principals at the Hamburg State Ballet since 1997.’
      • ‘The chorus was well drilled and performed well under severe space restrictions - at various times there were 30-plus principals and chorus on stage.’
      • ‘He is a beloved principal in The Royal Ballet and returns this month as a guest artist with American Ballet Theatre for its spring season.’
      • ‘But the other principals in the cast are convincing, too: Gregory Kunde as Éneé and Renata Pokupic as Anna in particular stand out.’
      • ‘Two principal performers in this year's Keighley Amateurs' pantomime were recruited after being seen in productions elsewhere.’
      • ‘The arrival of the Mercy girls greatly enhanced the shows and since 1970, all the female roles, principals and chorus, have been taken by students from Mercy, Tuam.’
      • ‘The traditional family panto, with adult principals and the children's chorus, will be presented in Sutton Village Hall, from December 1-4.’
      • ‘At the time he was still, impatiently, waiting to be promoted to principal at the Royal Ballet, but already he was being cast in the sort of roles that would limber him up for this sort of challenge.’
      • ‘Each episode is a marvellous dance through any number of narrative spaces, as a company of principals, supporting characters and guest artists perform each complex manoeuvre.’
      • ‘In these three videos, by contrast to the other two in the ensemble, Manu is the principal or solo player.’
      • ‘The only thing that carries the film is the performances by the principals.’
      • ‘At most periods in the history of opera, composers have valued and exploited the scope of the chorus for complementing and heightening the functions of principals and orchestra.’
      • ‘She is the last home-grown female principal at the Royal Ballet, and considers herself a guardian of the lyrical national style.’
      leading actor, leading actress, leading performer, leading player, leading lady, leading man, lead, star
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    3. 1.3Music The leading player in each section of an orchestra.
      • ‘Nearly every section principal had at least one solo, some longer than others, with several exceptional performances.’
      • ‘Clarence is the ultra-professional second bassoonist, always backing his principal, never complaining, even though he is twice as good a musician.’
      • ‘There was some impressive solo playing from the woodwind principals in this performance and the orchestra produced a beautifully controlled pianissimo ending.’
      • ‘He hired fine section principals, many of whom were hired away by bigger, better financed bands.’
      • ‘Ravel's Boléro is an obvious encore because it gives many principals a moment in the spotlight as the theme is passed from one instrument to the next.’
  • 2A sum of money lent or invested, on which interest is paid.

    ‘the winners are paid from the interest without even touching the principal’
    • ‘As homeowners make monthly mortgage payments to reduce the principal owed on the house, they slowly increase the equity, or value, of that home.’
    • ‘This calculation is done using standard loan payment formulas that differentiate between each period's principal and interest payments.’
    • ‘Cash flows at highly leveraged firms tend to be committed to principal and interest payments, and lenders may see the firm as having reached its maximum debt capacity.’
    • ‘If your lender violated state laws, regulators can force the lender to forgive the entire principal and interest on the home loan.’
    • ‘The payment of principal and interest on these instrument stems from the cash flows collected on the underlying assets in the pool.’
    • ‘Each payment should include an allocation of principal and interest amounts.’
    • ‘A general obligation bond uses tax revenue to guarantee payment of interest and principal.’
    • ‘Interest-only mortgages allow borrowers to pay interest, but no principal, throughout the life of the loan, which is usually 15 years.’
    • ‘Extra principal paid at the beginning of a mortgage will save thousands of dollars in interest as well as knock several years off the loan.’
    • ‘The debt-service ratio measures the share of income devoted by households for paying interest and principal on their debt.’
    • ‘In cases when the state provides financing for a loan to third parties, they are required to put up security covering the principal and interest owed by them.’
    • ‘Creditors set the conditions for reducing debt payments and principal, just as they set the conditions for granting new loans.’
    • ‘Monthly payments to the lender go only towards the interest, not the principal.’
    • ‘Each mortgage payment lowers the principal, increasing the home's equity.’
    • ‘He demonstrated that a person hypothetically could buy a bond and end up repaying the interest and principal through tax payments.’
    • ‘The funds are sufficient to provide for a safe clearance of principal and interest rate payments for the next three and a half to four years.’
    • ‘It used to be that homeowners would in effect be forced to save as they paid back the principal on their mortgage loan.’
    • ‘Like the monthly payments of a mortgage, monthly car payments are divided between paying principal and interest, and the amounts dedicated to each vary from payment to payment.’
    • ‘The agreement also defines the way of announcing financial information for small clients and the total expenditure on loans, such as principal, interest rate, fees and commissions.’
    • ‘The insurance policy ensures full and timely payment of interest and ultimate payment of principal by the legal final distribution date of each class.’
    capital sum, capital, capital funds, working capital, financial resources
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  • 3A person for whom another acts as an agent or representative.

    ‘stockbrokers in Tokyo act as agents rather than as principals’
    • ‘No one at the company had asked the First Defendant for any deposit because they were aware he was only acting as agent and the deposit would be provided by his principal.’
    • ‘The agent of an undisclosed principal may also sue and be sued on the contract.’
    • ‘An action for an account brought by a principal against his agent is barred by the statutes of limitation unless the agent is more than a mere agent but is a trustee of the money which he received.’
    • ‘It is accepted that an authorised publication by an agent attracts the same qualified privilege as would the same publication by the principal.’
    • ‘The difficulties with agents include conflicts of interest when the same agent acts for competing principals or is simply inert.’
    • ‘Today's topic was the fiduciary responsibilities of agents to their principals.’
    • ‘In his relations with his commercial agent a principal must act dutifully and in good faith.’
    • ‘The respondents accept that the authority of an agent may be revoked by express notice given by the principal to the agent.’
    • ‘The power to disqualify agents also extends to those who are ethically incompetent in that they cannot be relied upon to conduct their principal's representation in an honest and ethical manner.’
    • ‘Moreover, the use of disclaimers to insulate estate agents and their principals from responsibility for representations was commonplace and the normal basis on which house sales were carried out.’
    • ‘Occasionally, this amount is reduced to take into account the efforts of the principal's other agents located outside the UK, but who have an influence on the purchasing decision.’
    • ‘The defendant was a principal, not a guarantor.’
    • ‘Moreover, various consequences flow because in this situation it is acting as principal, rather than as agent of the issuer.’
    • ‘Collections of prints have been disposed of through dealers, who have acted as agents rather than as principals.’
    • ‘If the relationship was solely a contractual principal and agent relationship, was it governed by the terms of the 1995 agency agreement?’
    • ‘Is it not possible that the agent and the principal were both participants in the importation?’
    • ‘Corporate managers act as the agent representing the shareholders, who are the firm's principals.’
    • ‘Nothing in that agreement seems to me to prevent Plantiflor acting as agent for principals undisclosed at the time the agreement was made but known from the addressee's name on the packet by the time the parcel was dispatched.’
    • ‘It does not affect, in our submission, the notion that the person who is the agent may well be acting as agent for an undisclosed principal.’
    • ‘It has been argued, for example, that the relationship between a central bank and government should be conceived of in terms of an agent-principal contract.’
  • 4Law
    The person directly responsible for a crime.

    • ‘I don't want the cops to haul me and the gang back to face our principal for crimes years in the past.’
    • ‘If a person is determined to be a principal in a crime, the jurors had wanted to know, is that person guilty of the crime?’
    • ‘Complicity often involves the accomplice in words or deeds prior to the principal's crime.’
    • ‘I had a feeling that Caysee would help the principal commit any crime he wished so long as it kept her in her elevated position.’
    • ‘The action is brought against the company as well as the two principals and sole shareholders, officers and directors of the company.’
    • ‘Here criminal responsibility arises if the aider and abettor knows that his action will assist the commission of a specific crime by the principal.’
    1. 4.1historical Each of the combatants in a duel.
      • ‘This speech had so good an effect that my principal immediately stretched forth his hand and said, "I am myself again; give me the weapon."’
      • ‘Then he added that he and his principal would enjoy axes, and indeed prefer them, but such weapons were barred by the French code, and so I must change my proposal.’
  • 5A main rafter supporting purlins.

    • ‘The truss principal extends from below the plate to the ridge.’
    • ‘Two 2 in. x 6 in. struts run from purlin to truss principal.’
  • 6An organ stop sounding a main register of open flue pipes typically an octave above the diapason.

    • ‘The distinctive pipe organ sound which cannot be duplicated by any other instrument is produced by ranks designated as the Principal.’
    • ‘The plein jeu together with the 8-ft. principal and 4-ft. prestant, which are also from the old great organ, produce a principal chorus which contrasts remarkably with those in the other divisions of the organ.’


Is it principal or principle? Principal means 'most important' or 'person in charge': my principal reason for coming tonight; the high school principal. It also means 'a capital sum': the principal would be repaid in five years. Principle means 'rule, basis for conduct': her principles kept her from stealing despite her poverty


Middle English: via Old French from Latin principalis ‘first, original’, from princeps, princip- ‘first, chief’.