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.

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.
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.
noun, verb
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.

center cen·ter (sěn’tər)

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.

Related Terms

dead center, front and center
In addition to the idiom beginning with center


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