Student Dictionary

5 entries found for cardinal.
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Main Entry: 1car·di·nal
Pronunciation: primarystresskärd-nschwal, -schwan-schwal
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English cardinal "high church official," from Latin cardinalis (same meaning), from cardinalis (adjective) "principal, most important, of a hinge," from cardo "hinge"
1 : a high official of the Roman Catholic Church ranking next below the pope
2 : CARDINAL NUMBER
3 : a North American finch of which the male is bright red with a black face and a pointed bunch of feathers on its head
Word History Our word cardinal can be traced back to the Latin adjective cardinalis, which at first 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, the noun cardo also came to be used for "something on which a development turns or depends," or in other words, "something very important." Following this, the adjective took on the meaning "very important, chief, principal." Later the Roman Catholic Church made use of this adjective in referring to principal churches and priests. By the late Middle Ages the word cardinalis had come to be used for "a clergyman of the highest rank, next to the pope." When borrowed into English, cardinalis became cardinal. Then other senses of the word developed. A cardinal's robes are a deep red color, and this color influenced the naming of a type of bird whose color was like that of a cardinal's robes.

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