Definition of cardinal in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkɑːd(ɪ)n(ə)l/


1A leading dignitary of the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinals are nominated by the Pope, and form the Sacred College which elects succeeding popes (now invariably from among their own number): his appointment as cardinal [as title]: the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster
More example sentences
  • The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church are sealed into the Sistine Chapel for a very secret ballot.
  • Certainly the pope and the church's cardinals and bishops must correct the mistakes of the past.
  • On his first full day as a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, an 82-year-old Jesuit priest was doing a little exploring.
1.1 (also cardinal red) [mass noun] A deep scarlet colour like that of a cardinal’s cassock.
Example sentences
  • From a soft blush rose to cardinal to deep wine, red lipsticks put lips in the spotlight.
  • During the early 1980s a trend in new homes was to have a colour suite in either brown, green, cardinal red, etc.
  • Harmer sells a range of contemporary pendant lighting, including the Icon glass dome light shades, in colours from petrol blue to cardinal red, priced £109.
Image of cardinal
2A New World songbird of the bunting family, having a stout bill and typically a conspicuous crest. The male is partly or mostly red in colour.
  • Family Emberizidae, subfamily Cardinalinae (the cardinal grosbeak subfamily): four genera and several species.
Example sentences
  • As we had learned from those first brave chickadees, the cardinal, the robin family, and now the sparrow, communion with another life can change your perspective on the world.
  • Use a feeder that holds sunflower seeds to draw cardinals, towhees and blue jays.
  • Tube feeders come in many sizes and attract jays, cardinals, finches, chickadees, titmice and others.


Of the greatest importance; fundamental: two cardinal points must be borne in mind
More example sentences
  • Hospital cleaning - although an issue of cardinal importance - is a subject to which only a proportion of the public relate.
  • This I regard as being a point of cardinal importance in the present case.
  • Although the Ten Commandments are of cardinal importance, all the commandments were given by God and are essential to Judaism.
fundamental, basic, main, chief, primary, prime, principal, premier, first, leading, capital, paramount, pre-eminent;
important, major, foremost, top, topmost, greatest, highest, key;
essential, vital, crucial, intrinsic, integral, elemental, rudimentary, root, radical



Pronunciation: /ˈkɑːd(ɪ)n(ə)leɪt/
Example sentences
  • Alexander's papacy was a signal moment in the restoration of papal monarchy in the wake of the conciliar experiment, Pellegrini argues, since it represented ‘the waning of the medieval cardinalate.’
  • In 1535, just after his elevation to the cardinalate by Paul III, he was put on trial for treasonably denying the king's supremacy over the church, and was executed on 22 June 1535.
  • From 1523 until his elevation to the cardinalate in 1528, Marino lived in Venice, where he could manage the affairs of the patriarchate of Aquileia.


Example sentences
  • Bulgaria needs to implement a generally and cardinally new agrarian policy strategy.
  • Russia's Security Council Secretary warned that the realization of the plans of NATO's expansion might cardinally change the inner political situation in Russia.
  • In his radio address to the nation, Victor Yushchenko said gas prices in the municipal sector would not be cardinally raised in the near future.


Pronunciation: /ˈkɑːd(ɪ)n(ə)lʃɪp/
Example sentences
  • He also expressed a wish that people of different world-views recognise his cardinalship as Catholic openness to dialogue.
  • We knew an excellent Roman Catholic priest, but instead of being given a cardinalship he was transferred to a most wretched parish.
  • Not since the days when popes sold cardinalships to raise crusade funds has such perplexing behavior come from the Vatican.


Old English, from Latin cardinalis, from cardo, cardin- 'hinge'. sense 1 of the noun has arisen through the notion of the important function of such priests as ‘pivots’ of church life.

  • The connection between a cardinal, ‘a senior Roman Catholic priest’, and cardinal, ‘fundamental, most important’, is a door hinge. The word derives from Latin cardinalis, from cardo ‘hinge’, and its senses share the idea of something being of pivotal importance, on which everything else turns or depends.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: car|dinal

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