Meaning of key
— n., pl. adj., v., keys, keyed, key•ing.
- a small metal instrument specially cut to fit into a lock and move its bolt.
- any of various devices resembling or functioning as a key: the key of a clock.
- something that affords a means of access: the key to happiness.
- something that secures or controls entrance to a place: Gibraltar is the key to the Mediterranean.
- something that affords a means of clarifying a problem.
- a book, pamphlet, or other text containing the solutions or translations of material given elsewhere, as testing exercises.
- a systematic explanation of abbreviations, symbols, etc., used in a dictionary, map, etc.:Cf. legend (def. 4). pronunciation key.
- the system, method, pattern, etc., used to decode or decipher a cryptogram, as a code book, machine setting, or key word.
- one of a set of marked parts, designated areas, or levers pressed in operating a typewriter, computer terminal, calculator, etc.
- a manually operated lever for opening and closing an electric circuit, used to produce signals in telegraphy.
- a symphony in the key of C minor.
- (in a keyboard instrument) one of the levers that when depressed by the performer sets in motion the playing mechanism.
- (on a woodwind instrument) a metal lever that opens and closes a vent.
- the relationship perceived between all tones in a given unit of music and a single tone or a keynote; tonality.
- the principal tonality of a composition:a symphony in the key of C minor.
- the keynote or tonic of a scale.
- tone or pitch, as of voice: to speak in a high key.
- mood or characteristic style, as of expression or thought: He writes in a melancholy key.
- degree of intensity, as of feeling or action.
- a pin, bolt, wedge, or other piece inserted in a hole or space to lock or hold parts of a mechanism or structure together; a cotter.
- a small piece of steel fitting into matching slots of a hub of a wheel or the like and the shaft on which the wheel is mounted so that torque is transmitted from one to the other.
- a contrivance for grasping and turning a bolt, nut, etc.
- a field or group of characters within a record that identifies the record, establishing its position among sorted records, and/or provides information about its contents.
- (in a series of advertisements or announcements soliciting replies) a unique code inserted for each medium used, to determine the relative effectiveness of the media.
- a device for opening and closing electrical contacts.
- a hand-operated switching device ordinarily formed of concealed spring contacts with an exposed handle or push button, capable of switching one or more parts of a circuit.
- a systematic tabular classification of the significant characteristics of the members of a group of organisms to facilitate identification and comparison.
- a keystone.
- (in a ribbed vault) a stone, as a boss, at the intersection of two or more ribs.
- a wedge, as for tightening a joint or splitting a stone or timber.
- a small piece of wood set into a timber across the grain to prevent warping.
- any grooving or roughness applied to a surface to improve its bond with another surface.
- keyhole (def. 2).
- the dominant tonal value of a picture, a high-key picture having light tonal values and minimal contrast and a low-key picture being generally dark with minimal contrast.
- the tonal value and intensity of a color or range of colors: Rembrandt's colors are characterized by their low key.
- a samara.
- (cap.) a member of the House of Keys.
- spiritual authority.
- the authority of a pope in ecclesiastical matters, vested in him as successor of St. Peter.
- chief; major; important; essential; fundamental; pivotal: a key person in the company; key industries.
- to regulate or adjust (actions, thoughts, speech, etc.) to a particular state or activity; bring into conformity: to key one's speech to the intellectual level of the audience.
- to regulate the key or pitch of.
- He keyed the painting to brown.
- to paint (a picture) in a given key.
- to adjust the colors in (a painting) to a particular hue:He keyed the painting to brown.
- to fasten, secure, or adjust with a key, wedge, or the like, as parts of a mechanism.
- to provide with a key.
- (in the layout of newspapers, magazines, etc.) to identify, through signs or symbols, the positions of illustrations or pieces of copy in a dummy.
- to lock with or as if with a key.
- to provide (an arch or vault) with a keystone.
- keyboard (def. 4).
- to use a key.
- keyboard (def. 4).
- keyboard (def. 4).
- The defensive backs keyed on the star receiver.
- Football.to watch the position and movements of an opponent in order to anticipate a play:The defensive backs keyed on the star receiver.
- Also,key in on.to single out as of prime importance or interest; be intent on or obsessed with:a company that is keyed in on growth.
- keyed up over the impending test.
- to bring to a particular degree of intensity of feeling, excitement, energy, nervousness, agitation, etc.:keyed up over the impending test.
- to raise (a piece of masonry) by the insertion of a wedge or wedges.
- to raise (the haunches of an arch) by the insertion of a voussoir.
— pl. keys.
- a reef or low island; cay.
— pl. keys.
- a kilogram of marijuana or a narcotic drug.
- 1780–1843, U.S. lawyer: author of The Star-Spangled Banner.
- key (Thesaurus)