How do you spell cardinal

Cardinal Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster

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car·​di·​nal ˈkärd-nəl 



: a high ecclesiastical official of the Roman Catholic Church who ranks next below the pope and is appointed by him to assist him as a member of the college of cardinals (see college sense 4)


: cardinal number

—usually used in plural



[from its color, resembling that of the cardinal's robes] : a crested finch (Cardinalis cardinalis of the family Cardinalidae) of the eastern U. S. and adjacent Canada, the southwestern U.S., and Mexico to Belize which has a black face and heavy red bill in both sexes and is nearly completely red in the male


: any of several red-headed passerine birds (genus Paroaria of the family Thraupidae) of South America and the West Indies that are grayish to blackish above with white underparts





Illustration of cardinal

  • cardinal 3


2 of 2


: of basic importance

a cardinal principle


: very serious or grave

a cardinal sin

cardinally adverb

Did you know?

Our word cardinal goes back to the Latin adjective cardinalis, which meant “serving as a hinge. ” The root of this word is the noun cardo, meaning “hinge.” Since a hinge is the device on which a door turns, cardo came to mean “something on which a development turns” or “something very important.” Later the Roman Catholic Church used the adjective cardinalis to refer to principal churches and priests and then to mean “a clergyman of the highest rank, next to the pope.” When borrowed into English, cardinalis became cardinal. A cardinal's robes are a deep red color, and this color influenced the naming of the bird whose color was like that of a cardinal's robes.



  • arch
  • big
  • capital
  • central
  • chief
  • dominant
  • first
  • foremost
  • grand
  • great
  • greatest
  • highest
  • key
  • leading
  • main
  • master
  • number one
  • No. 1
  • numero uno
  • overbearing
  • overmastering
  • overriding
  • paramount
  • predominant
  • preeminent
  • premier
  • primal
  • primary
  • principal
  • prior
  • sovereign
  • sovran
  • supreme

See all Synonyms & Antonyms in Thesaurus 

Example Sentences

Noun The Pope appointed two new cardinals this year. Adjective the cardinal principles of news reporting My cardinal rule is to always be honest.

Recent Examples on the Web

Heads rolling on cobblestones, the robes of kings and cardinals, Matisse's The Red Studio, the red in the tricolor flag of Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix. —David Coggins, Town & Country, 10 Dec. 2015 In fact a number of the cardinals from Brazil and bishops are friends of Pope Francis. —Bradley J. Fikes,, 7 June 2017 One small clearing is dotted with several boulders where children could sit and watch for goldfinches and cardinals at three bird feeders. —Jim Barnes, Washington Post, 8 May 2017 There are deer in the woods, large-mouth bass in the water and cardinals in the air. —Jeanne Houck,, 28 Apr. 2017 A year later, Pope John Paul II made Pell a cardinal. —Andrew Sullivan, Daily Intelligencer, 30 June 2017 A cardinal in charge of the Vatican's finances has been charged with multiple sexual offenses by Australian police, in one of the most significant indictments against a top-ranking leader of the Catholic Church. —Julie Zauzmer, Alaska Dispatch News, 29 June 2017 His January 20 inauguration ceremony featured an unprecedented six speakers, including a rabbi and a cardinal. —Adam Chandler, The Atlantic, 25 May 2017 The main Italian in the cast is Silvio Orlando as a beleaguered, mole-flecked cardinal tasked with advising this cocky young Pope, and thwarted at nearly every turn. —Richard Lawson,, 13 Jan. 2017

Or Berhalter for — another cardinal coaching sin — throwing a 20-year-old player under the bus in a public forum.San Diego Union-Tribune, 4 Jan. 2023 Consider motion smoothing, the cardinal sin of consumer TVs. —WIRED, 22 Nov. 2022 Caplan's narration is heavy-handed and initially off-putting, distracting from the action on screen and committing the cardinal writing sin of telling instead of showing. —Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, 17 Nov. 2022 Fed critics like Wood have said policymakers like Chair Powell are committing the cardinal sin of driving ahead while staring through their rear-view mirror. —Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 14 Nov. 2022 Other Republican House members, such as Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), were rejected by primary voters after committing the cardinal sin of questioning, criticizing or otherwise defying Trump. —Paul Schwartzman, Washington Post, 11 Oct. 2022 Neither did another aspect to Utah’s defeat — and an additional cardinal sin in Whittingham’s holy writ of football: giving up huge chunks of yardage by way of an inability to stop the run. —Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 9 Oct. 2022 But Walker and his campaign committed a cardinal sin in politics: knowing there’s a bad story that can break at any time and betting it doesn’t. —Philip Elliott, Time, 5 Oct. 2022 The cardinal rule of classifying animals as extinct, according to conservation scientist Stuart Pimm, is to remember the lessons of Shakespeare. —Claire Bugos, Discover Magazine, 28 May 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cardinal. ' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History



Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin cardinalis, from Late Latin cardinalis, adjective — see cardinal entry 2


Middle English, from Late Latin cardinalis, from Latin, serving as a hinge, from cardin-, cardo hinge

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler

The first known use of cardinal was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near




cardinal's hat

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Cite this Entry



“ Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Feb. 2023.

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Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun

car·​di·​nal ˈkärd-nəl 



: a high official of the Roman Catholic Church ranking next below the pope


: cardinal number


: a North American finch of which the male is bright red with a black face and a pointed bunch of feathers on its head


2 of 2 adjective


: chief entry 1 sense 2, primary

a cardinal rule


: very serious

a cardinal sin

More from Merriam-Webster on


Nglish: Translation of cardinal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cardinal for Arabic Speakers

Britannica. com: Encyclopedia article about cardinal

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Merriam-Webster unabridged

Cardinal Definition & Meaning |

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[ kahr-dn-l ]

/ ˈkɑr dn l /

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See synonyms for: cardinal / cardinals / cardinally on

This shows grade level based on the word's complexity.


Roman Catholic Church. a high ecclesiastic appointed by the pope to the College of Cardinals and ranking above every other ecclesiastic but the pope.

any bird belonging to the genus Cardinalis of the family Cardinalidae (cardinal family), especially the common northern cardinal of North America, the male of which is bright red.

any bird of the Americas belonging to the genus Piranga,Chlorothraupis, or Habia, including the scarlet tanager: these three genera were long considered part of the tanager family but are now classified as members of the cardinal family.

Also called red-head·ed car·di·nal [red-hed-id kahr-dn-l] /ˈrɛdˌhɛd ɪd ˈkɑr dn l/ . any bird belonging to the genus Paroaria of the tanager family (Thraupidae), noted for drab plumage other than conspicuously red head parts: most common in South America, Paroaria species include the prominently crested P. coronata, which has been successfully introduced to Puerto Rico and Hawaii.

Also called Med·i·ter·ra·ne·an frit·il·lar·y [med-i-tuh-rey-nee-uhn frit-l-er-ee] /ˌmɛd ɪ təˈreɪ ni ən ˈfrɪt lˌɛr i/ . a spotted, orange nymphalid butterfly with a green underside, Argynnis pandora, found throughout southern Europe and some adjoining regions of Asia and northern Africa.

a deep, rich red color.

a woman's short cloak with a hood, originally made of scarlet cloth and popularly worn in the 18th century.

cardinal number.


of prime importance; chief; principal: of cardinal significance.

of the color cardinal.



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Question 1 of 7

Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Origin of cardinal

First recorded before 1150; Middle English, Old English, from Latin cardinālis, equivalent to cardin- (stem of cardō ) “hinge,” hence, something on which other things hinge + -ālis adjective suffix; see -al1


car·di·nal·ly, adverbcar·di·nal·ship, nounin·ter·car·di·nal, adjectivepost·car·di·nal, adjective

sub·car·di·nal, adjectivesub·car·di·nal·ly, adverbun·car·di·nal·ly, adverb

Words nearby cardinal

Cardiff, cardigan, Cardigan Bay, Cardiganshire, Cardin, cardinal, cardinalate, cardinal beetle, cardinalfish, cardinal flower, cardinality

Dictionary. com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Words related to cardinal

overriding, basic, central, chief, essential, first, fundamental, leading, main, primary, prime, principal, ruling, basal, bottom-line, constitutive, foremost, greatest, highest, indispensable

How to use cardinal in a sentence

  • His latest pronouncement supporting civil unions is a rehashed stance as cardinal in Argentina.

    Pope Francis calls for civil unions for same-sex couples|Michael K. Lavers|October 21, 2020|Washington Blade

  • Fill it with a variety of nonaggressive fish—like neon and cardinal tetras—and cute aquarium decor.

    The best fish tanks for every space|PopSci Commerce Team|October 8, 2020|Popular-Science

  • Defenses may have overreacted to dribble penetration, violating the cardinal rule of never helping off the strongside corner.

    Why Have NBA Offenses Been So Good In The Bubble?|Mike Prada|August 20, 2020|FiveThirtyEight

  • Krajewski is one of the youngest cardinals in the world, aged 56, and he said that this is what Jesus would have done.

    Pope’s “Robin Hood” Gives Money To Jobless Transgender Sex Workers|D. N.|May 2, 2020|No Straight News

  • However, the priest’s resources were stretched by the health crisis, so he turned to the cardinal known as “the Pope’s Robin Hood” who runs the Vatican charities, and he wired money to help the group.

    Pope’s “Robin Hood” Gives Money To Jobless Transgender Sex Workers|D. N.|May 2, 2020|No Straight News

  • “Light trumps darkness, hope beats despair, grace wins over sin, love defeats hate, life conquers death,” the cardinal said.

    'Please Don't Die!': The Frantic Battle to Save Murdered Cops|Michael Daly|December 22, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • He quotes an unnamed cardinal saying that the conclave voters knew the charges were false.

    How Pope Francis Became the World’s BFF|Jason Berry|December 21, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • Elisabetta Piqué, who knew Bergoglio well as a cardinal, writes in the present tense as if to convey real time passing.

    How Pope Francis Became the World’s BFF|Jason Berry|December 21, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • And yet, a dossier of allegations involving human rights could not help any cardinal at a moment like that.

    How Pope Francis Became the World’s BFF|Jason Berry|December 21, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • His big break came in 1992 when an aging cardinal plucked him from his outback and persuaded the Vatican to make him a bishop.

    How Pope Francis Became the World’s BFF|Jason Berry|December 21, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • He thrust the Cardinal's mantle into it, and stood over the smouldering cloth, till the whole was consumed to ashes.

    The Pastor's Fire-side Vol. 3 of 4|Jane Porter

  • Before his rencontre with Ripperda at the Cardinal's, he had penetrated all the secrets of the Altheim apartments.

    The Pastor's Fire-side Vol. 3 of 4|Jane Porter

  • The Cardinal then hinted, that Wharton had vanished on some occult mission, to circumvent the Italian investiture.

    The Pastor's Fire-side Vol. 3 of 4|Jane Porter

  • I saw Cardinal de Giovenozzo this morning; and he tells me that Wharton has disappeared.

    The Pastor's Fire-side Vol. 3 of 4|Jane Porter

  • He was taken up for dead; and Richelieu and the Cardinal conjured me to hush the affair.

    The Pastor's Fire-side Vol. 3 of 4|Jane Porter

British Dictionary definitions for cardinal


/ (ˈkɑːdɪnəl) /


RC Church any of the members of the Sacred College, ranking next after the pope, who elect the pope and act as his chief counsellors

Also called: cardinal red a deep vivid red colour

See cardinal number

Also called: cardinal grosbeak, (US) redbird a crested North American bunting, Richmondena (or Pyrrhuloxia) cardinalis, the male of which has a bright red plumage and the female a brown one

a fritillary butterfly, Pandoriana pandora, found in meadows of southern Europe

a woman's hooded shoulder cape worn in the 17th and 18th centuries


(usually prenominal) fundamentally important; principalcardinal sin

of a deep vivid red colour

astrology of or relating to the signs Aries, Cancer, Libra, and CapricornCompare mutable (def. 2), fixed (def. 10)

Derived forms of cardinal

cardinally, adverb

Word Origin for cardinal

C13: from Latin cardinālis, literally: relating to a hinge, hence, that on which something depends, principal, from cardō hinge

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cardinally or cardinally - which is correct? | Education | Society

Plot We speak and write in Russian competently


Answer Yesenia Pavlotsky, linguist-morphologist, expert at the Institute of Philology, Mass Media and Psychology, Novosibirsk State Pedagogical University. nine0018

Since childhood, we know what coordinates are, because there is nowhere at school without them. How to write this word is also clear - we have not parted with it for so many years and we will hardly ever forget it.

And so, when we say that we are going to change something drastically, we remember our old friend with joy and write “coordinatively”. But the old friend has nothing to do with these changes. The word you want to use has other "compatriots" - cardiology and cardinal .

So, the word does not exist in coordinate , this is a mistake. It is constructed because, due to certain phonetic features in the speech stream, we hear k[a]rdinate and k[a]rdinate , pronouncing the words coordinates and coordinate . And, of course, the word cardinally therefore seems to be related to the word coordinates - we write through oo , pronounce and .

This is impossible because these words have different origins and meanings. nine0005

Coordinates - from the Latin coordinare "to arrange in order." The word was formed in this way: co- - “with, together” + ordinare - “arrange, arrange in order”.

Cardinally - from the Latin cardinalis "main, main". That is, if you change something important, basic, change at the root, then you change this cardinally .

So, right - cardinally, cardinal change .

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