A key (object designed to open and close a lock)
A numeric keypad with 16 keys
The keys of a musical keyboard.
Etymology 1 Edit
Middle English , keye , kaye , from keiȝe Old English , cǣġ , cǣġe cǣga ( “ key, solution, experiment ” ) (whence also Scots and key kay ( “ key ” )), of uncertain origin. Related to  Old English cǣggian ( “ to lock, shut ” ). The only sure cognates are Saterland Frisian Koai ( “ key ” ), West Frisian kaai ( “ key ” ), and North Frisian kay ( “ key ” ). Possibly from Proto-Germanic , *kēgaz *kēguz ( “ stake, post, pole ” ), from Proto-Indo-European , *ǵogʰ- , *ǵegʰ- *ǵegʰn- ( “ branch, stake, bush ” ), which would make it cognate with Middle Low German kāk ( “ whipping post, pillory ” ), and perhaps to Middle Dutch keige ( “ javelin, spear ” ) and Middle Low German , keie keige ( “ spear ” ). For the semantic development, note that medieval keys were simply long poles (ending in a hook) with which a crossbar obstructing a door from the inside could be removed from the outside, by lifting it through a hole in the door. Liberman has noted, however, "The original meaning of *kaig-jo- was presumably '*pin with a twisted end.' Words with the root *kai- followed by a consonant meaning 'crooked, bent; twisted' are common only in the North Germanic languages." 
key ( plural )
An object designed to open and close a
1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 13, in : Mr. Pratt's Patients We tiptoed into the house, up the stairs and along the hall into the room where the Professor had been spending so much of his time. 'Twas locked, of course, but the Deacon man got a big bunch of keys out of his pocket and commenced to putter with the lock. An object designed to fit between two other objects (such as a
shaft and a wheel) in a mechanism and maintain their relative orientation. A
crucial step or requirement.
The key to solving this problem is persistence. the key to winning a game
John Locke (1632–1705)
Those who are accustomed to reason have got the true key of books. Alfred Tennyson (1809–1892)
who keeps the keys of all the creeds A guide explaining the symbols or terminology of a map or chart; a
The key says that A stands for the accounting department. A guide to the correct answers of a
worksheet or test.
Some students cheated by using the answer key.
( computing ) One of several small, usually square buttons on a typewriter or computer keyboard, mostly corresponding to text characters.
Press the Escape key.
( 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.
( music ) One of various levers on a musical instrument used to select notes, such as a lever opening a hole on a woodwind.
( music ) A hierarchical scale of musical notes on which a composition is based.
the key of B-flat major 1881, R.L. Stevenson, :
Virginibus Puerisque A girl, it is true, has always lived in a glass house among reproving relatives, whose word was law; she has been bred up to sacrifice her judgments and take the key submissively from dear papa; and it is wonderful how swiftly she can change her tune into the husband's.
( figuratively ) The general pitch or tone of a sentence or utterance.
( botany ) An indehiscent, one-seeded fruit furnished with a wing, such as the fruit of the ash and maple; a samara.
( historical ) A manual electrical switching device primarily used for the transmission of Morse code.
( cryptography ) A piece of information (e.g. a passphrase) used to encode or decode a message or messages.
( Internet ) A password restricting access to an IRC channel.
2000, "Robert Erdec", Re: Help; mIRC32; unable to resolve server arnes.si (on newsgroup alt.irc.mirc)
if you know someone who is in the channel, you can query them and ask for the key.
( databases ) In a relational database, a field used as an index into another table (not necessarily unique).
( computing ) A value that uniquely identifies an entry in a container.
( 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.
( biology ) A series of logically organized groups of discriminating information which aims to allow the user to correctly identify a taxon.
( architecture ) A piece of wood used as a wedge.
( architecture ) The last board of a floor when laid down.
( masonry ) A keystone. That part of the
plastering which is forced through between the laths and holds the rest in place.
( rail transport ) A wooden support for a rail on the bullhead rail system. 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.
( cartomancy ) The thirty-third card of the Lenormand deck.
( print and film ) The black ink layer, especially in relation to the three color layers of cyan, magenta, and yellow. See also CMYK. ( computer graphics , television ) A color to be masked or made transparent.
2004, Mark Schmidt, Simon Robinson, Microsoft Visual C# .NET 2003 Developer's Cookbook (page 195)
You can easily create this type of user interface by creating a bitmap with certain portions set to a predefined color you want to use as the transparency key. 2016, Jerry C. Whitaker, The SBE Broadcast Engineering Handbook
There are key controls that adjust the “slice level” or the level at which the key kicks-in and starts cutting a hole for the “fill” [… ] Chroma key is another form of keying, which derives the key cutter or hole from a selected color.
Derived terms Edit
Related terms Edit
device designed to open and close a lock
ацаҧха ( ācāpxā ) Afrikaans:
sleutel (af) Albanian:
çelës (sq) m Amharic:
ቁልፍ m, f ( ḳulf ) Arabic:
مِفْتَاح (ar) m ( miftāḥ )
مفتاح ( muftāḥ ) Moroccan Arabic: ساروت f ( særut ) Aragonese:
clau (an) f Armenian:
բանալի (hy) ( banali ) Aromanian:
cljai , f , cljae , cljeai cljaie f Assamese:
চাবি n ( sabi ) Asturian:
llave f Avar:
ачгъич ( ačġič ) Azerbaijani:
açar (az) Bashkir:
асҡыс ( asqïs ) Basque:
giltza (eu) Belarusian:
ключ m ( ključ ) Bengali:
চাবি (bn) ( cabi ) Bikol Central:
alc'hwez (br) m Bulgarian:
ключ (bg) m ( ključ ) Burmese:
သော့တံ (my) ( sau.tam ), သော့ (my) ( sau. ) Catalan:
clau (ca) f Cebuano:
yawe Central Atlas Tamazight:
ⵜⴰⵙⴰⵔⵓⵜ f ( tasarut ) Chechen:
догӏа ( doġa ) Cherokee:
ᏍᏚᎢᏍᏗ ( sduisdi ) Cheyenne:
鎖匙 ( so 2 si 4 ) Mandarin:
鑰匙 , (zh) 钥匙 (zh) ( yàoshi ), 匙 (zh) ( chí ), 鑰 , (zh) 钥 (zh) ( yào ) Min Dong: 鎖匙 ( sō-siè ) Chuvash:
ҫӑраҫҫи ( śăraśśi ) Coptic:
( Bohairic ) ϣⲟⲩϣϯ m ( šoušti ), ( Sahidic ) ϣⲟϣϯ m ( šošti ) Cornish:
( Standard Cornish ) alwheth , m ( Standard Written Form ) alhwedh m Crimean Tatar:
klíč (cs) m Dalmatian:
cluf f Danish:
nøgle (da) c Dutch:
sleutel (nl) m Erzya:
панжома ( panžoma ) Esperanto:
võti , (et) , klahv toon (et) Faroese:
lykil m Finnish:
avain (fi) Franco-Provençal:
clâ m French:
clé (fr) , f clef (fr)
f Old French: clef f Frisian:
( Föhr-Amrum ) kai m Old Frisian:
sletel West Frisian: kaai (fy) Friulian:
clâf , f clâv f Galician:
chave f Gallo:
tié f Georgian:
გასაღები ( gasaɣebi ) German:
Schlüssel (de) m Greek:
κλειδί (el) n ( kleidí )
Ancient Greek: κλείς f ( kleís ) Guaraní:
ચાવી f ( cāvī ) Haitian Creole:
mabuɗi (ha) Hawaiian:
מַפְתֵּחַ (he) m ( maftéakh ) Hindi:
ताली (hi) f ( tālī ), चाबी (hi) f ( cābī ) Hungarian:
kulcs (hu) Icelandic:
lykill (is) m Ido:
klefo (io) Igbo:
kunci (id) Interlingua:
eochair (ga) f Isan:
ประแจ ( pracæ ) Istriot:
chiave (it) f Japanese:
鍵 (ja) ( かぎ, kagi ) Kannada:
ಬೀಗದ ಕೈ (kn) ( bīgada kai ), ಕೀಲಿಕೈ (kn) ( kīlikai ), ಚಾವಿ ( cāvi ) Kapampangan:
кілт (kk) ( kilt ) Khmer:
កូនសោ ( koun sao ) Korean:
열쇠 (ko) ( yeolsoe ) Kurdish:
kilîl (ku) , m kilîd (ku) , m mift (ku) , m enextar (ku) , m کلیل (ku) ( klîl ) Kyrgyz:
ачкыч (ky) ( açkıç ) Lao:
ຂໍກະແຈ (lo) ( khǭ ka chǣ ), ກະແຈ (lo) ( ka chǣ ), ລູກກະແຈ ( lūk ka chǣ ) Latin:
clavis (la) f Latvian:
atslēga f Laz:
please add this translation if you can Limburgish:
släötel (li) m Lithuanian:
raktas (lt) m Low German:
Slœtel Luganda: , ekisumuluzo lukulwe
Schlëssel (lb) m Lü:
please add this translation if you can Macedonian:
клуч m ( kluč ) Malagasy:
lakile (mg) Malay:
താക്കോല് ( tākkōl ) Maltese:
ċavetta (mt) , f muftieħ m Manx:
ogher f Maori:
चावी ( cāvī ), किल्ली f ( killī ) Mingrelian:
please add this translation if you can Mirandese:
chabe f Mongolian:
түлхүүр (mn) ( tülhüür ) Nauruan:
king , (na) kiñ (na) Nepali:
साचो ( sācō ) Ngazidja Comorian:
lakile class 9/ 10 Nobiin:
كوشر ( koushur ) Northern Sami:
čoavdda Northern Thai:
please add this translation if you can Norwegian:
nøkkel (no) m Novial:
clau (oc) f Old Church Slavonic:
Cyrillic: ключь m ( ključĭ ) Old English:
cǣġ f Old Norse:
lykill m Oriya:
ଚାବି (or) ( chabi ) Ossetian:
дӕгъӕл ( dæǧæl ) Ottoman Turkish:
مفتاح ( miftah ), مفاتيح pl ( mefâtih ), آناختار ( ānāḫtār ) Pashto:
کلي f ( kilī ), کنجئِي f ( kunjay ) Persian:
کلید (fa) ( kelid ), سوئیچ ماشین ( sow'ič-e mâšin ) ( car key), کیلید ( kilid ) ( colloquial ) Polish:
klucz (pl) m Portuguese:
chave (pt) f Punjabi:
ਕੁੰਜੀ ( kuṃjī ) Quechua:
please add this translation if you can Romagnol:
cheie (ro) f Romansch:
ключ (ru) m ( ključ ) Sardinian:
, ciae ciai Scots:
key Scottish Gaelic:
iuchair f Serbo-Croatian:
кључ m Roman: ključ (sh) m Sicilian:
chiàvi , f chiavi (scn) f Sindhi:
ڪُنجيِ f ( kunjī ) Sinhalese:
යතුර ( yatura ) Slovak:
kľúč m Slovene:
ključ (sl) m Slovincian:
klʉ̇́č m Somali:
fure (so) m Sorbian:
kluc m Upper Sorbian: kluč m Southern Thai:
please add this translation if you can Spanish:
llave (es) f Svan:
ლაკრა̈̄ლ ( laḳrǟl ) Swahili:
ufunguo (sw) class 11/ 14 Swedish:
nyckel (sv) c Sylheti:
ꠌꠣꠛꠤ ( sabi ) Syriac, Classical:
ܩܠܝܕܐ m ( qlīḏā ) Tagalog:
( literally ) susi (tl) n Tajik:
калид (tg) ( kalid ) Tamil:
சாலி (ta) ( cāli ), சாவி (ta) ( cāvi ) Tashelhit:
ⵜⴰⵙⴰⵔⵓⵜ f ( tæsærut ) Tatar:
ачкыч (tt) ( açkıç ) Telugu:
తాళంచెవి ( tāḷañcevi ), బీగంచెవి ( bīgañcevi ) Thai:
กุญแจ (th) ( gun-jɛɛ ) Tibetan:
ལྡེ་མིག ( lde mig ) Turkish:
anahtar , (tr) açar , (tr) açkı (tr) ( dialectal ) Turkmen:
açar (tk) Tuvan:
дүлгүүр ( dülgüür ) Ukrainian:
ключ (uk) m ( ključ ) Urdu:
تالی f ( tālī ), چابی f ( cābī ) Uyghur:
ئاچقۇچ (ug) ( achquch ) Uzbek:
kalit (uz) Venetian:
ciave (vec) f Vietnamese:
chìa khoá , (vi) khoá (vi) Vilamovian:
śłysuł m Volapük:
kik (vo) Votic:
clé (wa) f Waray-Waray:
allwedd (cy) , f agoriad (cy) , m goriad m Westrobothnian:
nytjel , m litjil m White Hmong:
please add this translation if you can Wolof:
caabi (wo) Yagnobi:
שליסל m ( shlisl ) Yup'ik:
kilît Zhuang: yaekseiz
object used to maintain the orientation between two others
small guide explaining symbols or terminology
part of a piano or musical keyboard
device used to transmit Morse code
cryptography: piece of information used to encode or decode
computing: field of a database constrained to be unique
computing: field in a record used as a search argument
computing: value uniquely identifying entry in associative array
biology: information to correctly identify a taxon
— see clavis
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.
Translations to be checked
key ( comparative , more key superlative )
Indispensable, supremely important.
He is the key player on his soccer team. 2007, Mark H. Moss, Shopping as an Entertainment Experience (page 46)
Lukas intimates that one of Disney's key attractions was "Main Street USA,” which "mimicked a downtown business district just as Southdale" had done. Important, salient.
She makes several key points.
2006, Edwin Black, chapter 2, in Internal Combustion :  Throughout the 1500s, the populace roiled over a constellation of grievances of which the forest emerged as a key focal point. The popular late Middle Ages fictional character Robin Hood, dressed in green to symbolize the forest, dodged fines for forest offenses and stole from the rich to give to the poor. But his appeal was painfully real and embodied the struggle over wood. 2011 September 29, Jon Smith, “Tottenham 3 - 1 Shamrock Rovers”, in BBC Sport :  With the north London derby to come at the weekend, Spurs boss Harry Redknapp opted to rest many of his key players, although he brought back Aaron Lennon after a month out through injury.
Usage notes Edit
The first meaning is distinguished by the definite article, as seen in the quotations.
key ( third-person singular simple present , keys present participle , keying simple past and past participle )
keyed To fit (a lock) with a key.
To fit (pieces of a mechanical assembly) with a key to maintain the orientation between them.
mark or indicate with a symbol indicating membership in a class.
1996 January, Garden Dsign Ideas, second printing, Taunton Press, →ISBN, page 25,
So I worked on a tissue-paper copy of the perimeter plan, outlining groupings of plants of the same species and keying them with letters for the species.
2001, Bruce M. Metzger, The Bible in Translation, →ISBN, page 87,
The volume closes with thirty pages of "Notes, critical and explanatory," in which Thomson provides seventy-six longer or shorter notes keyed to specific sections of the synopsis.
2002, Karen Bromley, Stretching Students' Vocabulary, →ISBN, page 12,
Talk about similarities between the words and write them below to the left of the anchor, keying them with a plus sign (+). Talk about the characteristics that set the words apart and list them below the box to the right, keying them with a tilde sign (~). 2007, Stephen Blake Mettee, Michelle Doland , and Doris Hall, compilers, The American Directory of Writer's Guidelines, 6th ("2007–2008") edition, →ISBN, page 757,
Indicate the comparative value of each heading by keying it with a number in pencil, in the left margin, as follows: [… ]
( telegraphy and radio telegraphy ) To depress (a telegraph key).
( radio ) To operate (the transmitter switch of a two-way radio).
( 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.
( 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
link (as one might do with a key or legend).
1960, Richard L. Masland, "Classification of the Epilepsies", in Epilepsia, volume 1, page 516,
The American Heart Association has prepared their own guide to classification and, keying it with the Standard Nomenclature of Diseases, have done much to encourage a concise yet complete diagnosis.
1976, Nicholas Askounes Ashford, Crisis in the Workplace: Occupational Disease and Injury , page 19:  The workman's compensation system rests on incentives (premium payments) that are keyed to the immediate and relatively undeniable nature of injuries; [… ] 2006, Deborah Blum, Mary Knudson and Robin Marantz Henig, A Field Guide for Science Writers: The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers , page 63:  It also features special issues on "Live Longer, Better, Wiser," men's health, women's health, and issues keyed to important "disease weeks."
( intransitive , biology , chiefly taxonomy ) To be identified as a certain taxon when using a key. To fasten or secure firmly; to fasten or tighten with keys or wedges.
(Can we find and add a quotation of Francis to this entry?)
Derived terms Edit
fit (pieces of a mechanical assembly) with a key
telegraphy: depress (a telegraph key)
radio: operate (transmitter switch of a two-way radio)
computing: enter (information)
vandalize (a car, etc.) by scratching with an implement such as a key
Etymology 2 Edit
cay, from Spanish , from cayo Taíno cayo ( “ small island ” )
Alternative forms Edit
key ( plural )
keys One of a string of small islands.
the Florida Keys
Derived terms Edit
Etymology 3 Edit
key ( plural )
keys Alternative form of . quay
Etymology 4 Edit
Abbreviating kilogram, via
and its SI symbol kilo k- ( “ kilo- ” ) by pronunciation of " "
key ( plural )
( slang ) Clipping of kilogram ( though this is more commonly shortened to kay ).
2010, David J. Silas, Da Block (page 41)
So starting with ten keys of cocaine and two keys of heroin, Derrick put his plan in motion. Soon every major drug dealer and gang chief from Chicago Avenue to Evanston was in his pocket.