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The following statistics are based on the British National Corpus, so they are representative for the British English.

Distribution of usage frequency for the most common synonyms of the noun key:


Distribution of usage frequency for the most common synonyms of the verb key:


The word key is considered to be an easy one, according to the Dale-Chall word list, which includes 3000 words that all fourth-grade American students should know and understand.

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Definition of the noun key

What does key mean as a name of something?

Key is one of the top 1000 most common nouns in the English language.

noun - plural: keys

  1. metal device shaped in such a way that when it is inserted into the appropriate lock the lock's mechanism can be rotated
    • lexical domain: Artifacts - nouns denoting man-made objects
    • more generic word: device = an instrumentality invented for a particular purpose
    • more specific terms:
    • parts:
      • bit = the part of a key that enters a lock and lifts the tumblers
      • shank / stem = cylinder forming a long narrow part of something
  2. something crucial for explaining
    • example: the key to development is economic integration
    • lexical domain: Cognitive Processes - nouns denoting cognitive processes and contents
    • more generic word: explanation = thought that makes something comprehensible
  3. pitch of the voice
    • example: he spoke in a low key
    • lexical domain: Attributes - nouns denoting attributes of people and objects
    • more generic word: pitch = the property of sound that varies with variation in the frequency of vibration
  4. any of 24 major or minor diatonic scales that provide the tonal framework for a piece of music
  5. a kilogram of a narcotic drug
  6. a winged often one-seed indehiscent fruit as of the ash or elm or maple
    • lexical domain: Plants - nouns denoting plants
    • synonyms of key: key fruit / samara
    • more generic word: achene = small dry indehiscent fruit with the seed distinct from the fruit wall
  7. United States lawyer and poet who wrote a poem after witnessing the British attack on Baltimore during the War of 1812; the poem was later set to music and entitled `The Star-Spangled Banner' (1779-1843)
  8. a coral reef off the southern coast of Florida
  9. (basketball) a space (including the foul line) in front of the basket at each end of a basketball court; usually painted a different color from the rest of the court
    • example: he hit a jump shot from the top of the key
    • domain: basketball / basketball game / hoops
    • lexical domain: Locations - nouns denoting spatial position
    • synonym of key: paint
    • more generic word: space = an area reserved for some particular purpose
    • part of: basketball court = the court on which basketball is played
    • part: foul line = a line from which basketball players take penalty shots
  10. a list of answers to a test
    • example: some students had stolen the key to the final exam
    • lexical domain: Communicative Processes - nouns denoting communicative processes and contents
    • more generic words: list / listing = a database containing an ordered array of items
  11. a list of words or phrases that explain symbols or abbreviations
    • lexical domain: Communicative Processes - nouns denoting communicative processes and contents
    • more generic words: list / listing = a database containing an ordered array of items
    • more specific term: key word = a word that is used as a pattern to decode an encrypted message
  12. a generic term for any device whose possession entitles the holder to a means of access
    • example: a safe-deposit box usually requires two keys to open it
    • lexical domain: Communicative Processes - nouns denoting communicative processes and contents
    • more generic term: positive identification = evidence proving that you are who you say you are; evidence establishing that you are among the group of people already known to the system
  13. mechanical device used to wind another device that is driven by a spring (as a clock)
    • lexical domain: Artifacts - nouns denoting man-made objects
    • synonym of key: winder
    • more generic term: mechanical device = mechanism consisting of a device that works on mechanical principles
    • more specific term: watch key = winder consisting of a key with a square hole
  14. the central building block at the top of an arch or vault
    • lexical domain: Artifacts - nouns denoting man-made objects
    • synonyms of key: headstone / keystone
    • more generic term: building block = a block of material used in construction work
    • more specific words: coigne / coign / quoin = the keystone of an arch
    • part of: arch = a masonry construction (usually curved) for spanning an opening and supporting the weight above it
  15. a lever (as in a keyboard) that actuates a mechanism when depressed
    • lexical domain: Artifacts - nouns denoting man-made objects
    • more generic word: lever = a rigid bar pivoted about a fulcrum
    • more specific terms:
      • backspace key / backspacer / backspace = the typewriter key used for back spacing
      • command key / control key = the key on a computer keyboard that is used (in combination with some other key) to type control characters
      • return key / return = the key on electric typewriters or computer keyboards that causes a carriage return and a line feed
      • shift key / shift = the key on the typewriter keyboard that shifts from lower-case letters to upper-case letters
      • space bar = the bar-shaped typewriter key that introduces spaces when used
      • tab key / tab = the key on a typewriter or a word processor that causes a tabulation
      • telegraph key = key consisting of a lever that sends a telegraph signal when it is depressed and the circuit is closed
    • part of: action / action mechanism = the operating part that transmits power to a mechanism
    • member of: keyboard = device consisting of a set of keys on a piano or organ or typewriter or typesetting machine or computer or the like

Alternative definition of the noun key


  1. An object designed to open and close a lock.
  2. An object designed to fit between two other objects (such as a shaft and a wheel) in a mechanism and maintain their relative orientation.
  3. A crucial step or requirement.
  4. A guide explaining the symbols or terminology of a map or chart; a legend.
  5. A guide to the correct answers of a worksheet or test.
  6. [computing] One of several small, usually square buttons on a typewriter or computer keyboard, most of which generally correspond to a particular character.
  7. [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.
  8. [music] One of various levers on a musical instrument used to select notes, such as a lever opening a hole on a woodwind.
  9. [music] A hierarchical scale of musical notes on which a composition is based
  10. [historical] A manual electrical switching device primarily used for the transmission of Morse code.
  11. [cryptography] A piece of information (e.g. a passphrase) used to encode or decode a message or messages.
  12. [computing] In a relational database, a field used as an index into another table (not necessarily unique).
  13. [computing] A value that uniquely identifies an entry in an associative array.
  14. [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.
  15. [biology] A series of logically organized groups of discriminating information which aims to allow the user to correctly identify a taxon.
  16. [slang] kilogram
  17. One of a string of small islands.

Specialised definition of the noun key

Glossary of sports / basketball

the (often painted) area on a basketball court including the foul lane and the foul circle; so-called because it resembles a keyhole (2005. Chambers Sports Factfinder. Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd)

the area encompassing the free throw circle and free throw lane; so name because it was shaped like a keyhole when the lane was narrower than the free throw circle

the area at each end of the court consisting of the foul circle, foul lane and free-throw line; named for the shape it had years ago

Definition of the adjective key

What does key mean as an attribute of a noun?

adjective - degrees: kier |

  1. serving as an essential component

Alternative definition of the adjective key


  1. See Indispensable.
  2. Important, salient.

Definition of the verb key

What does key mean as a doing word?

verb - inflections: keyed | keying | keys

  1. identify as in botany or biology, for example
  2. provide with a key
    • example: We were keyed after the locks were changed in the building
    • lexical domain: Possession - verbs of buying, selling, owning
    • more generic words: furnish / provide / render / supply = give something useful or necessary to
  3. vandalize a car by scratching the sides with a key
    • example: His new Mercedes was keyed last night in the parking lot
    • lexical domain: Contact - verbs of touching, hitting, tying, digging
    • more generic words: vandalise / vandalize = destroy wantonly, as through acts of vandalism
  4. regulate the musical pitch of
    • domain: music
    • lexical domain: Change - verbs of size, temperature change, intensifying, etc.
    • more generic words: chord / harmonise / harmonize = bring into consonance, harmony, or accord while making music or singing
  5. harmonize with or adjust to
    • example: key one's actions to the voters' prevailing attitude
    • lexical domain: Change - verbs of size, temperature change, intensifying, etc.
    • more generic words: harmonise / harmonize / reconcile = bring into consonance or accord

Alternative definition of the verb key


  1. To fit (a lock) with a key.
  2. To fit (pieces of a mechanical assembly) with a key to maintain the orientation between them.
  3. To mark or indicate with a symbol indicating membership in a class.
  4. [context: telegraphy and radio telegraphy] To depress (a telegraph key).
  5. [context: radio] To operate (the transmitter switch of a two-way radio).
  6. [computing] (more usually 'to key in') To enter (information) by typing on a keyboard or keypad.
  7. [colloquial] To vandalize (a car, etc.) by scratching with an implement such as a key.
  8. To link (as one might do with a key or legend).
  9. [intransitive] [biology, mostly, taxonomy] To be identified as a certain taxon when using a key.


Key is a Japanese visual novel studio which formed on July 21, 1998 as a brand under the publisher VisualArt's and is located in Kita, Osaka, Japan. Key released their debut visual novel Kanon in June 1999, which combined an elaborate storyline, an up-to-date anime-style drawing style, and a musical score which helped to set the mood for the game. Key's second game Air released in September 2000 had a similar if not more complex storyline to Kanon and a more thorough gameplay. Both Kanon and Air were originally produced as adult games, but Key broke this trend with their third title Clannad which was released in April 2004 for all ages. Key has worked in the past with Interchannel and Prototype for the consumer port releases of the brand's games. Key collaborated with ASCII Media Works' Dengeki G's Magazine to produce the mixed media project Angel Beats!, which was produced into an anime TV series in 2010. The brand's ninth game Rewrite was released in June 2011, and a fan disc for the game titled Rewrite Harvest festa! was released in July 2012. The first volume in the six-part Angel Beats! episodic visual novel has been announced.


  1. Key: Kim Ki-bum, better known by his stage name Key, is a South Korean singer, dancer, and actor. He is the lead dancer, lead rapper, and vocalist of the South Korean boy group Shinee. He is also member of the project South Korean duo Toheart.
    • also known as Ki-bum Kim, Kim Kibum, Kimbap, Kibummie, Gwiboon, Bummie, Almighty Key, Diva Key, 김기범, 키, Kim Ki-bum
    • born on (23 years ago) in Daegu
    • nationality: South Korea
    • profession: Singer, rapper, dancer, actor, model, master of ceremonies, radio personality
    • member of musical groups:
    • genres: K-pop, Dance-pop, Pop music, Contemporary R&B, Hip hop music
    • album: "One Dream"
  2. Key a.k.a. Keyon Smith is an actor.
  3. Key a.k.a. Kyle Stafford is a TV and film editor.
  4. Key is a musical artist and member of the musical group Menew.
    • also known as Ryan Klaas
    • profession: Musician
    • member of musical group Menew (Piano) since

There are other people with in their name, like Dee Key, Jon Key, Low Key, low-key, Max Key, Sam Key, Ted Key, Tim Key, Anna Key, Anne Key and many others.


Key is a musical group.

  • albums: "Crown of Winter", "Silver Moon Slumber"


The Key is the name of two fictional supervillains in the DC Comics universe. The most widely known version, the "modern-age" villain which first appeared in 1965, is a long-time and highly dangerous opponent of the Justice League. The character continues to appear in Justice League and Batman comics, with a ghoulish appearance since 1997.


"KEY" is a film, directed by Rob Hamilton.


  1. "Key" is a composition, cataloged instance.
  2. "Key" is the second full-length from Omaha, NE's Son, Ambulance.
    • released on (10 years ago)
  3. "Key" is the debut album of Meredith Monk, released in 1971 through Increase Records.
  4. "Key" is an award-nominated musical album of Victoria Vox.
  5. "Key" is a musical album of Red Snapper.
    • released on
  6. "Key" is a musical album of Marshall Artz.
    • released in (6 years ago)
  7. "KEY" is a musical album of Minako Yoshida.
  8. "Key" is a cataloged instance, composition.
  9. "Key" is a musical single of Masami Okui.
    • released on (15 years ago)
  10. "Key" is a musical album of Yo Hitoto.
    • released on (6 years ago)
  11. "Key" is a composition.
  12. "Key" is a composition.


Key a.k.a. Kericho Airport is an airport in Kenya.


  1. Key: In music theory, the key of a piece is the tonic note and chord, which gives a subjective sense of arrival and rest. Other notes and chords in the piece create varying degrees of tension, resolved when the tonic note and/or chord returns. The key may be major or minor, although major is assumed in a phrase like "this piece is in C." Popular songs are usually in a key, and so is classical music during the common practice period, about 1650–1900. Longer pieces in the classical repertoire may have sections in contrasting keys.
    • also known as 调
  2. Key a.k.a. Cay: A cay, also spelled caye or key, is a small, low-elevation, sandy island on the surface of a coral reef. Cays occur in tropical environments throughout the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, where they can provide habitable and agricultural land for hundreds of thousands of people. Their surrounding reef ecosystems also provide food and building materials for island inhabitants.
    • read more about Cay
  3. Key: In cryptography, a key is a piece of information that determines the functional output of a cryptographic algorithm or cipher. Without a key, the algorithm would produce no useful result. In encryption, a key specifies the particular transformation of plaintext into ciphertext, or vice versa during decryption. Keys are also used in other cryptographic algorithms, such as digital signature schemes and message authentication codes.
    • also known as HappyMan, Key generator 2
  4. Key: In mechanical engineering, a key is a machine element used to connect a rotating machine element to a shaft. The key prevents relative rotation between the two parts and may enable torque transmission. For a key to function, the shaft and rotating machine element must have a keyway and a keyseat, which is a slot and pocket in which the key fits. The whole system is called a keyed joint. A keyed joint may allow relative axial movement between the parts.
    • also known as Keyway
  5. Key: A key is a specific part of a musical instrument. The purpose and function of the part in question depends on the instrument.
  6. The key, officially referred to as the free throw lane by the National Basketball Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the restricted area by the international governing body FIBA, and colloquially as the lane or the paint, is an area on a basketball court underneath the basket bounded by the endline, the foul line and other lines which are known as freebody lines, that are usually painted. It is a critical area on the court where much of the action takes place in a game.
  7. The KeY tool is used in formal verification of Java programs. It accepts both specifications written in JML or OCL to Java source files. These are transformed into theorems of dynamic logic and then compared against program semantics which are likewise defined in terms of dynamic logic. KeY is significantly powerful in that it supports both interactive and fully automated correctness proofs. Failed proof attempts can be used for a more efficient debugging or verification-based testing. It can be integrated into CASE tools to extract specifications. There have been several extensions to KeY in order to apply it to the verification of C programs or hybrid systems. KeY is jointly developed by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany; Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany; and Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden and is licensed under the GPL.
  8. Key is a 1995 Telugu psychological thriller produced by Sukumar Reddy on Dream Theater Entertainments banner, directed by Nagendra Prasad. Starring Jagapati Babu in the lead role and music composed by Vijay Kurakula. The film is a remake of english film Exam.
  9. Key a.k.a. Kupia Language: Kupia, or Valmiki, is a language of eastern India closely related to Oriya.
    • also known as Valmiki
  10. Key: the type of namespace entries.
  11. The key, mode, or scale this composition uses.

Printed dictionaries and other books with definitions for Key

Click on a title to look inside that book (if available):

Google previewA Short-hand Dictionary; or, complete Key for translating short-hand writing, etc (1838)

by James NYE

kaw KWHRD-cowherd KWL-cowl KWR-cower KW RD-coward K WRDLY- cowardly K WSLP-cowslip K X-coax KXKM-coxcomb KXKMKL-coxcomìcal KXST- coexist K XSTNT-coexistent KXTND-coextend K XTNSN-coextension KY-coy, key , ...

Google previewEncyclopedia of Human Resource Management, Key Topics and Issues (2012)

Appropriate Action Learning Components ofan Action Learning Program Key ...

Google previewDictionary of Health Information Technology and Security (2007)

KEY: Data transmissions and input encryption controller; an input that controls the transformation of health data by an encryption ...

Google previewThe Computer and Information Science and Technology Abbreviations and Acronyms Dictionary (1994)

by David W. South

keyboard; kilohm; constant (General symbol); dielectric constant (Symbol); key; kilo (SIO prefix denoting I03); kilobyte; kiloBIT К Cathode (Symbol); Deflection ...

Google previewThe Relational Database Dictionary, Extended Edition (2008)

by Christopher Date

candidate key Loosely, a unique identifier. More precisely, let K be a subset of the heading of relvar R; then K is a candidate key (key for short) for R if and only if (a) no possible value for ...

Google previewThe Military Dictionary (1987)

K key symbol—(NA T0) In psychological operKA-S—See Intruder. KC-135—See Stratotanker. K-day—(DOD) The basic date for the introduction of a convoy system on any particular convoy lane.

Google previewThe Encyclopaedia for Locksmiths (2004)

by Mick Friend

The correct key lines up the pins and drivers to make a clear ...

Online dictionaries and encyclopedias with entries for Key

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Photos about Key

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View more pictures about Low Key, Key Deer, Key Ring, and Key West.

If you need related images for an article or a report, you can download stock photos:
Small photo of House Key and Key ChainSmall photo of House Key and Key ChainSmall photo of Golden House Key with white backgroundSmall photo of wooden key chain with rings isolated on white backgroundSmall photo of Key isolated on white backgroundSmall photo of key isolated on white backgroundSmall photo of Gold skeleton key isolated on white background More...

Videos about Key

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View more videos about Alt key, Bis key, Key fob, Map Key, The Key, key word, and Key Principles.

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Quotes about Key

I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma: but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest. (Winston Churchill)
more quotes about key...

Scrabble value of K5E1Y4

The value of this 3-letter word is 10 points. It is included in the first and second editions of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary.

Anagrams of KEY

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Other anagrams

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