The Meaning of Principal: What It Is and How To Use It

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If someone says that they are a principal, what does that mean? If they describe something as principal, does that mean something else? This article will clarify the difference between the adjective principal and the noun principal. Then, it will provide example sentences that contain the word principal to teach you how to use it in a sentence. 

Finally, this article will conclude with a list of translations, synonyms, and antonyms of the word principal. By reading this article, you will become an expert on the word principal!

What Does Principal Mean?

According to Dictionary, the definition of principal is an adjective meaning highest in rank or importance. Therefore, something principal is chief or foremost. Principal can also refer to the main amount of money in a loan, also known as the capital sum.  

The noun principal also refers to the headteacher or head of a school or educational institution. For example, the word principal can refer to the head of an elementary school, middle school, or high school. At the college and university level, people often use the word dean instead.

A principal is also a leading performer, such as in a play or other type of theatrical performance. The pronunciation of principal is ˈprɪn sə pəl, and principal is three syllables: prin-ci-pal.

How Can We Use Principal in a Sentence?

The word principal is both an adjective and a noun. Therefore, we can use the word principal in several ways in sentences. Take a look at the below example sentences containing this new word of the day and see if you can determine which part of speech principal is. 

After you feel comfortable and confident in your knowledge of the word principal, see if you can use this word as a noun and an adjective in your own daily life!

Example #1: The High School Principal

We hid in the closet from our high school principal as we ditched class. We knew that we would get an in-school suspension if we got caught, which was the worst type of punishment.

Question: What part of speech is the word principal in the above sentence?

Answer: Principal is a noun in the above sentence. 

Question #2: The Important Executive

Impressing the chief executive would be principal in increasing our budget for the year. If he didn’t think we were worthy of an increase, production would cease. We were very nervous about the meeting. 

Question: What part of speech is the word principal in the above sentence?

Answer: Principal is an adjective in the above sentence. 

Question #3: The Loan Payment

The borrower was paying more interest on the original amount than the principal amount in their monthly payment. However, they would begin to pay off more of the actual capital after the first year. 

Question: What part of speech is the word principal in the above sentence?

Answer: Principal is an adjective in the above sentence. 

Question #4: The Main Reason

The principal reason I chose to move to New York was to work as a ballerina. I had been in the company for four years when I was finally promoted to principal.

Question: What part of speech is the word principal in the above sentence?

Answer: Principal is an adjective and a noun in the above sentence. 

What Is the Etymology of Principal?

The word principal entered Middle English in the mid-1200s, from the Old French princeps and the Latin principalis.

What Are Translations of Principal?

Many languages other than American English and British English have their own translations of the word principal, listed below from Nice Translator.  

  • Norwegian: rektor
  • Hungarian: fő
  • Spanish: principal
  • Bengali: অধ্যক্ষ
  • Japanese: 主要な
  • German: Rektor, hauptsächlich
  • Estonian: peaosa
  • Italian: principale
  • Catalan: principal
  • Chinese (PRC): 主要的
  • Welsh: phrifathro
  • Vietnamese: hiệu trưởng, chính
  • Polish: główny
  • Dutch: voornaam
  • Arabic: المالك
  • Amharic: ርዕሰ መምህሩ
  • French: principal
  • Slovenian: glavna
  • Gujarati: આચાર્યશ્રી
  • Portuguese (Brazil): diretor
  • Bulgarian: главен
  • Lithuanian: pagrindinis
  • Hindi: प्रधान अध्यापक
  • Danish: rektor
  • Swahili: Mkuu
  • Icelandic: aðalmaður
  • Tamil: முதன்மை
  • Indonesian: Kepala Sekolah
  • Thai: อาจารย์ใหญ่
  • Ukrainian: директор
  • Malayalam: മുഖമായ
  • Portuguese (Portugal): diretor
  • Filipino: punong -guro
  • Finnish: pää-
  • Hebrew: קֶרֶן
  • Marathi: प्राचार्य
  • Basque: nagusi
  • Korean: 주요한
  • Swedish: rektor
  • Russian: главный
  • Urdu: پرنسپل
  • Czech: ředitel školy, hlavní
  • Turkish: müdür
  • Serbian: главни
  • Latvian: direktors
  • Malay: pengetua
  • Romanian: principal
  • Kannada: ಪ್ರಧಾನ
  • Telugu: ప్రిన్సిపాల్
  • Slovak: hlavný
  • Chinese (Taiwan): 主要的
  • Croatian: glavni
  • Greek: σχολειου

What Are Synonyms of Principal?

Power Thesaurus provides several words that you can use in place of the word principal. Some are synonyms of the noun, and others are synonyms of the adjective. 

  • administrator
  • basic
  • boss
  • capital
  • captain
  • cardinal
  • central
  • chairman
  • chairperson
  • chancellor
  • chief
  • commander
  • core
  • crucial
  • dean
  • director
  • dominant
  • essential
  • first
  • focal
  • foremost
  • fundamental
  • governor
  • greatest
  • head
  • headteacher
  • headmaster
  • headmistress
  • highest
  • important
  • key
  • lead
  • leader
  • leading
  • main
  • major
  • manager
  • master
  • most important
  • number one
  • number-one
  • overriding
  • paramount
  • pivotal
  • predominant
  • preeminent
  • premier
  • president
  • primary
  • prime
  • prominent
  • star
  • superintendent
  • superior
  • supervisor
  • supreme
  • uppermost
  • vital

What Are Antonyms of Principal?

You can also reference Power Thesaurus to find antonyms of the word principal.

  • acolyte
  • agent
  • aide
  • ancillary
  • assistant
  • atrocious
  • attendant
  • auxiliary
  • awful
  • bad
  • base
  • bottom
  • bush-league
  • collateral
  • common
  • deficient
  • extra
  • frivolous
  • inconsiderable
  • inessential
  • inferior
  • insignificant
  • junior
  • last
  • less important
  • lesser
  • little
  • lousy
  • low
  • low-grade
  • lower
  • mediocre
  • minor
  • negligible
  • nonessential
  • paltry
  • peripheral
  • petty
  • poor
  • second
  • second-class
  • second-rate
  • secondary
  • slight
  • small
  • subordinate
  • subsidiary
  • supplementary
  • trifling
  • trivial
  • underdog
  • unimportant
  • worst


As an adjective, principal means the most important or the foremost. As a noun, the word principal can refer to any chief or head, such as the lead of a play or the head of a school.


Synonyms – 2 231 Words and Phrases for Principal | Power Thesaurus 

Antonyms – 810 Opposites of Principal | Power Thesaurus 

Principal Definition & Meaning | 

Principal | Nice Translator