• Important, salient.

    "She makes several key points."

  • Indispensable, supremely important.

    "He is the key player on his soccer team."


  • One of a string of small islands.

    ""the Florida Keys""

  • That part of the plastering which is forced through between the laths and holds the rest in place.
  • (music) One of a number of rectangular moving parts on a piano or musical keyboard, each causing a particular sound or note to be produced.
  • The degree of roughness, or retention ability of a surface to have applied a liquid such as paint, or glue.

    "The door panel should be sanded down carefully to provide a good key for the new paint."

  • (figuratively) The general pitch or tone of a sentence or utterance.
  • (cryptography) A piece of information (e.g. a passphrase) used to encode or decode a message or messages.
  • (computing) A value that uniquely identifies an entry in an associative array.
  • An object designed to open and close a lock.
  • (slang) Kilogram (though this is more commonly shortened to kay).
  • A crucial step or requirement.

    "the key to winning a game"

  • (masonry) A keystone.
  • (computing) One of several small, usually square buttons on a typewriter or computer keyboard, mostly corresponding to text characters.

    "Press the Escape key."

  • (heraldic charge) The object used to open or close a lock, often used as a heraldic charge.

    "The coat of arms of Regensburg is gules two keys in saltire argent."

  • (music) A hierarchical scale of musical notes on which a composition is based.

    "the key of B-flat major"

  • (historical) A manual electrical switching device primarily used for the transmission of Morse code.
  • (computing) In a relational database, a field used as an index into another table (not necessarily unique).
  • (biology) A series of logically organized groups of discriminating information which aims to allow the user to correctly identify a taxon.
  • A crucial step or requirement.

    "The key to solving this problem is persistence."

  • (architecture) The last board of a floor when laid down.
  • A guide to the correct answers of a worksheet or test.

    "Some students cheated by using the answer key."

  • Alternative form of quay
  • (rail transport) A wooden support for a rail on the bullhead rail system.
  • (music) One of various levers on a musical instrument used to select notes, such as a lever opening a hole on a woodwind.
  • (botany) An indehiscent, one-seeded fruit furnished with a wing, such as the fruit of the ash and maple; a samara.
  • (Internet) A password restricting access to an IRC channel.
  • (basketball) The free-throw lane together with the circle surrounding the free-throw line, the free-throw lane having formerly been narrower, giving the area the shape of a skeleton key hole.

    "He shoots from the top of the key."

  • An object designed to fit between two other objects (such as a shaft and a wheel) in a mechanism and maintain their relative orientation.
  • (architecture) A piece of wood used as a wedge.
  • A guide explaining the symbols or terminology of a map or chart; a legend.

    "The key says that A stands for the accounting department."


  • To fit (a lock) with a key.
  • (telegraphy and radio telegraphy) To depress (a telegraph key).
  • (colloquial) To vandalize (a car, etc.) by scratching with an implement such as a key.

    "He keyed the car that had taken his parking spot."

  • To fasten or secure firmly; to fasten or tighten with keys or wedges.
  • To mark or indicate with a symbol indicating membership in a class.
  • (computing) (more usually to key in) To enter (information) by typing on a keyboard or keypad.

    "Our instructor told us to key in our user IDs."

  • (intransitive, biology, chiefly taxonomy) To be identified as a certain taxon when using a key.
  • To fit (pieces of a mechanical assembly) with a key to maintain the orientation between them.
  • (radio) To operate (the transmitter switch of a two-way radio).
  • To link (as one might do with a key or legend).

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