I. noun Etymology: Middle English, from Old English cǣg; akin to Old Frisian kēi key Date: before 12th century 1. a. a usually metal instrument by which the bolt of a lock is turned b. any of various devices having the form or function of such a key 2. a. a means of gaining or preventing entrance, possession, or control b. an instrumental or deciding factor 3. a. something that gives an explanation or identification or provides a solution <
the key to a riddle
b. a list of words or phrases giving an explanation of symbols or abbreviations c. an aid to interpretation or identification ; clue d. an arrangement of the salient characters of a group of plants or animals or of taxa designed to facilitate identification e. a map legend 4. a. (1) cotter pin (2) cotter b. a keystone in an arch c. a small piece of wood or metal used as a wedge or for preventing motion between parts 5. a. one of the levers of a keyboard musical instrument that actuates the mechanism and produces the tones b. a lever that controls a vent in the side of a woodwind instrument or a valve in a brass instrument c. a part to be depressed by a finger that serves as one unit of a keyboard 6. samara 7. a system of tones and harmonies generated from a hierarchical scale of seven tones based on a tonic <
the key of G major
8. a. characteristic style or tone b. the tone or pitch of a voice c. the predominant tone of a photograph with respect to its lightness or darkness 9. a decoration or charm resembling a key 10. a small switch for opening or closing an electric circuit <
a telegraph key
11. the set of instructions governing the encipherment and decipherment of messages 12. a free-throw area in basketball • keyed adjectivekeyless adjective II. verb Date: 14th century transitive verb 1. to lock with or as if with a key ; fasten: as a. to secure (as a pulley on a shaft) by a key b. to finish off (an arch) by inserting a keystone 2. to regulate the musical pitch of 3. to bring into harmony or conformity ; make appropriate ; attune <
remarks keyed to a situation
4. to identify (a biological specimen) by a key 5. to provide with identifying or explanatory cross-references <
instructions keyed to accompanying drawings — John Gartner
6. to make nervous, tense, or excited — usually used with up <
was keyed up over her impending operation
7. keyboard — often used with in 8. to be essential to ; play the most important part in <
defense keyed the victory
intransitive verb 1. to use a key 2. to observe the position or movement of an opposing player in football in order to anticipate the play — usually used with on 3. keyboard III. adjective Date: 1913 important, fundamental <
key issues
IV. noun Etymology: Spanish cayo, from Taino Date: 1697 a low island or reef; specifically any of the coral islets off the southern coast of Florida V. noun Etymology: by shortening & alteration from kilo Date: 1968 slang a kilogram especially of marijuana or heroin

New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.


Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Key — Key, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Keved}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Keying}.] 1. To fasten or secure firmly; to fasten or tighten with keys or wedges. Francis. [1913 Webster] 2. (Computers) To enter (text, data) using keys, especially those on a keyboard; to… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • key — adj: of vital importance (as in a business organization) esp. so as to be specially insured to the benefit of an employer key man key employee insurance Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996 …   Law dictionary

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  • KEY — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Key, clef en anglais, peut faire référence à : Key, une société publiant des Eroge, Keys peut faire référence à : Les Keys, un archipel en… …   Wikipédia en Français

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