Etymology: Middle English centre, from Middle French, from Latin centrum, from Greek kentron sharp point, center of a circle, from kentein to prick; probably akin to Old High German hantag pointed
Date: 14th century
a. the point around which a circle or sphere is described; broadly a point that is related to a geometrical figure in such a way that for any point on the figure there is another point on the figure such that a straight line joining the two points is bisected by the original point — called also center of symmetry
b. the center of the circle inscribed in a regular polygon
a. a point, area, person, or thing that is most important or pivotal in relation to an indicated activity, interest, or condition <a railroad center> <the center of the controversy> b. a source from which something originates <a propaganda center> c. a group of nerve cells having a common function <respiratory center> d. a region of concentrated population <an urban center> e. a facility providing a place for a particular activity or service <a day-care center> 3. a. the middle part (as of the forehead or a stage) b. often capitalized (1) a grouping of political figures holding moderate views especially between those of conservatives and liberals (2) the views of such politicians (3) the adherents of such views 4. a. a player occupying a middle position on a team: as (1) the football player in the middle of a line who passes the ball between his legs to a back to start a down (2) the usually tallest player on a basketball team who usually plays near the basket b. center field 5. a. either of two tapered rods which support work in a lathe or grinding machine and about or with which the work revolves b. a conical recess in the end of work (as a shaft) for receiving such a center • centerless adjective II. verb (centered; centering) Date: 1590 transitive verb 1. to place or fix at or around a center or central area or position <center the picture on the wall> 2. to give a central focus or basis <centers her hopes on her son> <the plot was centered on espionage> 3. to adjust (as lenses) so that the axes coincide 4. a. to pass (a ball or puck) from either side toward the middle of the playing area b. to hand or pass (a football) backward between one's legs to a back to start a down 5. to play center on <center a line in hockey> intransitive verb to have a specified center ; focus Usage: The intransitive verb center is most commonly used with the prepositions in, on, at, and around. At appears to be favored in mathematical contexts; the others are found in a broad range of contexts. Center around, a standard idiom, has often been objected to as illogical. The logic on which the objections are based is irrelevant, since center around is an idiom and idioms have their own logic. Center on is currently more common in edited prose, and revolve around and similar verbs are available if you want to avoid center around.
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.