key1(kē),USA pronunciationn., pl.keys,adj., v.,keyed, key•ing. n.
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.
See key card.
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.:pronunciation key.Cf. legend (def. 4).
Cryptographythe system, method, pattern, etc., used to decode or decipher a cryptogram, as a code book, machine setting, or key word.
Computingone of a set of marked parts, designated areas, or levers pressed in operating a typewriter, computer terminal, calculator, etc.
Telecommunicationsa manually operated lever for opening and closing an electric circuit, used to produce signals in telegraphy.
Music and Dance
(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.
Mechanical Engineeringa 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.
Mechanical Engineeringa 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.
Computinga 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.
Business(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.
Biologya systematic tabular classification of the significant characteristics of the members of a group of organisms to facilitate identification and comparison.
Building, Architecture[Masonry.]a keystone.
Architecture(in a ribbed vault) a stone, as a boss, at the intersection of two or more ribs.
Building[Masonry, Carpentry.]a wedge, as for tightening a joint or splitting a stone or timber.
Building[Carpentry.]a small piece of wood set into a timber across the grain to prevent warping.
Buildingany grooving or roughness applied to a surface to improve its bond with another surface.
Sport[Basketball.]keyhole (def. 2).
Photographythe 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.
Fine Art[Painting.]the tonal value and intensity of a color or range of colors:Rembrandt's colors are characterized by their low key.
Government(cap.) a member of the House of Keys.
Religionkeys, spiritual authority.
power of the keys, 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.
Music and Danceto regulate the key or pitch of.
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.
Mechanical Engineeringto fasten, secure, or adjust with a key, wedge, or the like, as parts of a mechanism.
to provide with a key.
Journalism(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.
Building[Masonry.]to provide (an arch or vault) with a keystone.
Computingkeyboard (def. 4).
to use a key.
Computingkeyboard (def. 4).
Computingkey in, keyboard (def. 4).
Sport[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.
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.
bef. 900; Middle English key(e), kay(e), Old English cǣg, cǣge; cognate with Old Frisian kei, kai
6.See corresponding entry in Unabridged answer, explanation, resolution, clue.
key2(kē),USA pronunciationn., pl.keys.
Geographya reef or low island; cay.
Spanish cayo, probably
key3(kē),USA pronunciationn., pl.keys.[Slang.]
Slang Termsa kilogram of marijuana or a narcotic drug.
shortening and respelling, respelled of kilogram 1965–70, American.
BiographicalFrancis Scott, 1780–1843, U.S. lawyer: author of The Star-Spangled Banner.