Main definitions of key in English

: key1key2

key1

nounkeys

  • 1A small piece of shaped metal with incisions cut to fit the wards of a particular lock, which is inserted into a lock and turned to open or close it.

    ‘there were two keys to the cupboard’
    ‘a room key’
    • ‘In the recovery room and three theatres, the drugs cupboards had been opened using force and the metal cupboards inside had been opened with keys.’
    • ‘He pulled the keys out, opened the door and slammed it closed.’
    • ‘From her pockets, she produced a key and inserted the key into the door, opening it.’
    • ‘I inserted my key into the lock and opened the door, listening for telltale sounds.’
    • ‘Then they tried to use the keys to open the door but put the wrong key in the lock.’
    • ‘It will be a far cry from North Sea Camp open prison where inmates have keys to their own rooms.’
    • ‘I fished out my keys, opened the door, and let him in.’
    • ‘But Moore had a set of keys, so he opened the door for himself.’
    • ‘It took him a few minutes to find the right key and open the lock.’
    • ‘Thieves are only too happy to look out for people leaving their doors open and keys on show.’
    • ‘When David Brooke arrived the curtains were closed and the keys were inside the door lock.’
    • ‘Maria fiddled with the keys, trying to open the lock to the door of her yellow convertible.’
    • ‘He walked me to the door and I fumbled with my keys before opening it.’
    • ‘Later on I realized I had lost my keys and Bernie found them in the sand, about fifteen feet away from where we were sitting.’
    • ‘He also made a large key for the door of Sheriff Hutton Hall.’
    • ‘Peterson glared at him as he pulled a house key from his jacket pocket.’
    • ‘When he reached her door, he turned the spare key in the lock and walked inside.’
    • ‘Ryan turned his house key in the door and followed Katalyn inside.’
    • ‘He bent down and pushed the key into the keyhole.’
    • ‘Gone forever are the enormous key rings with the bunches of clanging keys carried by the prison officers.’
    1. 1.1A shaped metal implement for operating a switch in the form of a lock, especially one operating the ignition of a motor vehicle.
      ‘Nat turned the key in the ignition’
      • ‘Anytime we flip a switch, turn a key in the ignition, or mail a letter, we expect something to happen.’
      • ‘He switched the keys in the ignition and the car started to roar.’
      • ‘When police stopped him his car engine was switched off and the keys were in the ignition and he was sitting in the driver's seat.’
      • ‘Now he reached for the keys, turned the ignition key and waited, half-expecting the car not to start.’
      • ‘Twist the key in the ignition and the engine doesn't so much explode into life as dutifully and modestly clear its throat.’
      • ‘There are systems already installed in our vehicles to warn us that we have left our headlights on or our keys in the ignition.’
      • ‘I sighed with relief before sliding into the jeep and slipping the keys in the ignition.’
      • ‘Thieves have been preying on motorists who leave their keys in the ignition and engines running to defrost their cars.’
      • ‘He swerved into his parking space on the dock, took his key out of the ignition, locked the car and ran up to the ship.’
      • ‘I put everything back in the bag, grabbed my keys out of the ignition, locked the doors, slung the bag over my shoulder and waited.’
      • ‘Alysha took the keys out of the ignition and locked the car.’
      • ‘The key was in the ignition and Jessie was about to pull out of the parking lot, when she stopped.’
      • ‘She turned the key in the ignition and they left Pickering Beach, driving west.’
      • ‘Lucas shifted the car into park before pulling the keys from the ignition.’
      • ‘Because it was a secluded spot with no-one else around she left the keys in the ignition with the engine running.’
      • ‘She put the keys into the ignition and sped off into the night, trying to find something to concentrate on besides her disturbing memories.’
      • ‘Figuring they'd be arguing for awhile, she just pulled the keys out of the ignition and leaned back across the seat, looking her son in the eye.’
      • ‘I put the keys in the ignition and backed out of the driveway.’
      • ‘I am now car-less and about £2,000 out of pocket, as I don't think that the insurance will pay out as I had left the keys in the ignition.’
      • ‘He also grabbed the car keys from the ignition to prevent them driving off.’
    2. 1.2An instrument for grasping and turning a screw, peg, or nut, especially one for winding a clock or turning a valve.
      • ‘It later serviced the local textile industry, but then found a niche with the water industry, making valve keys for reservoirs and water mains.’
      • ‘The front of the tail mount is attached the keel and the back is elevated, plus there is no screw key below the keel.’
      • ‘Threats of police action to obtain the clock winding key were made recently.’
      • ‘The clock does work, you wind it up with a key and it has a clear ringing double chime and right now it is keeping time.’
      • ‘Slotted stems are turned with a screwdriver and square ones are turned with a radiator key.’
      • ‘Remove adjusting keys and wrenches from tool before turning it on.’
      • ‘Use a lag-screw system that includes a special key that can sink or retrieve the screw.’
      • ‘Along the same line are the T-shaped hex tools with vinyl grips and L-shaped keys for greater torque power.’
    3. 1.3A pin, bolt, or wedge inserted into a hole or between parts so as to lock the parts together.
      • ‘A cotter key fits in the two holes I drilled at the bottom and holds it open or shut.’
      • ‘Depending on the type of block you are using, there is typically some sort of key that locks one row to the row below it.’
      • ‘Opening the bubble-wrap we find the main unit, an instruction leaflet and a small bag with the screws and 2 keys.’
      • ‘In the box you also get a well-written manual, a bag of drive rails, a large collection of screws/standoffs and the keys for the side panel.’
  • 2Each of several buttons on a panel for operating a computer, typewriter, or telephone.

    ‘press the ENTER key’
    • ‘The participants initiated the trials by pressing any of the keys on the computer keyboard.’
    • ‘The function keys are smaller then normal, resembling the half-size keys found in many laptop keyboards.’
    • ‘To ensure that the computer remains in Standby, do not move the mouse or press any keys on your keyboard.’
    • ‘It means that if you can press keys on a keyboard, you have what is required to create your very own webpage!’
    • ‘You must use the number keys in the numeric keypad on the left of your keyboard.’
    • ‘Both Shift keys and the Return and Backspace keys are full size, which is always good to see.’
    • ‘During scanning, volunteers pressed a computer key to indicate that they detected an odor.’
    • ‘In the background, as I pound away at the keys on my computer, the second half of the Sunday-night Bucs-Bears game has just begun.’
    • ‘In today's information era, personal data is increasingly difficult to hide from the clicks of computer keys.’
    • ‘He punched a few keys on his computer and swiveled the monitor towards me.’
    • ‘You will find yourself accidentally hitting the Alt and delete keys quite a bit.’
    • ‘Tom furrowed his brow and tapped a few keys on his computer.’
    • ‘Several frenzied hits on the F5 key seemed to have brought things back to my most recent post.’
    • ‘Finally, he pressed the enter key on the last keypad.’
    • ‘Minnie tapped a few keys on the keyboard and clicked the mouse.’
    • ‘The Apple had a simple keyboard that only had upper case letters and only two arrow keys.’
    • ‘He heard the light tapping of keys, and opened his eyes to find that Dan was sprawled on the floor, working on his laptop.’
    • ‘And so when it comes time to locate their inner novelist, or just write letters, they like to hear the sound of hammering keys and the ding of a bell when they reach the end of a line.’
    • ‘Do I release the Wednesday update now and slink away, or just hammer the keys until I have something worth posting?’
    • ‘The arrow key is directional I think - you click up to select ones above your current one, left to move to the left.’
    1. 2.1A lever depressed by the finger in playing an instrument such as the organ, piano, flute, or concertina.
      ‘a piece composed solely for the white keys on the piano’
      • ‘Her fingers stilled on the keys as the piano strings stopped their vibrations and the lounge was silent again.’
      • ‘The placement of the pianist's fingers on the keys also will affect dynamics to a certain degree.’
      • ‘Beth brought her fingers to the flute keys and played the first run of the piece.’
      • ‘There will also be convertibles to drive to the countryside, horses to ride on the beach, piano keys to tickle, and tennis balls to swat.’
      • ‘He doesn't reply but softly touches the keys of the piano.’
      • ‘There are twelve half-tones (black and white keys on a piano), or steps, in an octave.’
      • ‘These ratios produce the eight notes of an octave in the musical scale corresponding to the white keys on a piano.’
      • ‘Sara was intently studying the ivory and black keys of the piano.’
      • ‘Anna could barely reach the piano keys when she started showing signs of a rare musical ability.’
      • ‘Even today, I can laugh and cry and express anger through my fingers on piano keys.’
      • ‘She began the lyrical melody, her fingers flowing over the keys without thought, her body swaying to the lilting melody of the music.’
      • ‘Consequently, holly is often used for the black keys on pianos and organs and for the pegs and fingerboards on violins.’
      • ‘In the corner was a piano, polished keys glittering under white light and two guitars - an acoustic and an electric.’
      • ‘This last model is for more serious keyboard players who need the approximate feel of a piano's heavier keys under their fingers.’
      • ‘He was obviously very passionate about his music as he sat behind his piano lightly fingering the keys for a brief moment.’
      • ‘Sitting down, she glided her fingers across the piano keys.’
      • ‘As she sang, her back straightened up and she resumed her normal regal posture as her fingers pounded the keys of the piano in front of her.’
      • ‘I walked out into the hall and ran my fingers over the piano keys.’
      • ‘His fingers sailed across the piano keys as he sang with all the feeling that he could muster.’
      • ‘The recordings capture the sound of his fingers on the keys, the depression of the pedals, and the click of the microphone as it turns off.’
    2. 2.2A lever operating a mechanical device for making or breaking an electric circuit, for example in telegraphy.
      • ‘Using the Morse key, operators at the stations were able to communicate with the world 24 hours a day.’
      • ‘A woman sits at a telegraph key and rattles Morse code along a wire.’
      • ‘She had learned to shoot a pistol, crawl under barbed wire, tap out gibberish on a Morse key.’
  • 3A thing that provides a means of achieving or understanding something.

    ‘discipline seems to be the key to her success’
    • ‘But as he explains, it is this hardship that provides a key to understanding the spirit and culture of these tribes.’
    • ‘Investment in higher education is the key to our future.’
    • ‘Universal responsibility is the real key to human survival.’
    • ‘In a recent commencement address, she gave graduates a few keys to being a well-rounded person.’
    • ‘The inscription is therefore credited as one of the keys to opening up the thousands of years of Egyptian history.’
    • ‘Clark, who is a former champion, said consistency was the key to their victory.’
    • ‘When exfoliating, the key is to remove the dead skin cells but leave healthy ones intact.’
    • ‘In the case of the stockmarket, the key to achieving good capital growth is profitability.’
    • ‘Moderation is the key to success when training your legs and glutes.’
    • ‘The key to raising the achievement of these boys is good teaching.’
    • ‘We strongly support our volunteer local organizing committees, whose good will and hard work are the keys to success.’
    • ‘In this it seems to me he is correct and has come up with a vital key to our understanding of Elgar.’
    • ‘Education is the key to a future for humankind, especially for a healthier humankind with a suitable replacement rate.’
    • ‘In my view these statements provide a significant key to the resolution of the issue before me.’
    • ‘Their motivation provides a key to the distinctive nature of modern terrorism.’
    • ‘The Dalai Lama once said that simplicity is the key to happiness in the modern world.’
    • ‘This awareness will provide the key to tracking animals, both human and otherwise.’
    • ‘Secondly, I was always of the opinion that the key to empowering women was to provide them with choice.’
    • ‘Dr Bracken said the key to providing a good service was time - and that was often in short supply.’
    • ‘The key is to plan a fun event early in the year that features activities the family will enjoy.’
    answer, clue, solution, explanation, pointer, cue, lead
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1An explanatory list of symbols used in a map, table, etc.
      • ‘In fact, as will be obvious to any reader who has ever used an index, the symbols in the key refer to the chapters in which the characters appear.’
      • ‘References within the tables themselves are listed in a key below each individual Appendix.’
      • ‘There is extensive use of place names without accompanying maps throughout the book, and many of the maps provided lack keys and scales.’
      • ‘For the reader who is not familiar with Soviet map symbols, there is a key in the back of the book.’
      • ‘References to pertinent illustrations are noted within the keys to help the user visualize and clarify the plant anatomy in question.’
    2. 3.2A set of answers to exercises or problems.
      ‘a key at the back of the book provides the answers’
      • ‘There are many ways of cheating on standardized tests other than doctoring the answer keys or even using questions from the test in class exercises.’
      • ‘If there are no answer keys, compare your answers against those of some friends of yours who are also doing the practice competitions.’
      • ‘The classroom teacher rated each test using answer keys, while the second author independently scored all tests.’
      • ‘Answer keys for tests and practice problems are found in each chapter.’
      • ‘If there are keys for answers, check what your child will be learning and see if it's in a skill that will be called for.’
      • ‘So, be careful with this CD-ROM set as you should be with the answer key in any math textbook.’
      • ‘After the teaching tips and 175 daily lessons, there's a set of workbook answer keys, tests and quiz drill sheets.’
      • ‘In North Carolina, no one at the school has access to the answer key or to grading the essays on our state tests.’
      • ‘My music students have those same moments because they, too, have the answer key.’
      • ‘I have been trying to get my hands on that answer key for several years, and kept getting turned down.’
      • ‘Then, she tried the drawer of the desk that she knew the test answer key was hidden in.’
      • ‘A good open-ended question should include a detailed answer key for the person marking the paper.’
    3. 3.3A word or system for solving a cipher or code.
      ‘it took him some time to find the key, the connection between the code and the Odyssey’
      • ‘Quantum cryptography systems discard these corrupt keys and only use codes that are known to be secure.’
      • ‘The strongest of all cipher systems require a random key as long as the message that's being sent.’
      • ‘Cryptographic keys and iris code reside in the smart card.’
      • ‘British agents broke into the Spanish Embassy in Washington and stole the keys to their ciphers, enabling Bletchley Park to crack the Spanish codes.’
      • ‘Your report says that she has the code keys memorized.’
      • ‘Stream ciphers are essentially practical adaptations of the Vernam Cipher with small keys.’
      • ‘The encryption keys are sent over dedicated links, and the messages ciphered with those keys are transmitted over the Internet.’
      • ‘How could you get a secret encryption key to someone in cyberspace?’
      • ‘Asymmetric encryption relies on two keys that work together as a pair an encryption key and a decryption key.’
      • ‘More recent viruses and blended threats also extract passwords, decryption keys and logged keystrokes.’
      • ‘The ‘DaVinci code’ of the title refers to cryptic keys supposedly incorporated by Leonardo da Vinci into his art.’
    4. 3.4The first move in the solution of a chess problem.
      ‘The key is whether the defensive king can get within the promotion ‘square’.’
    5. 3.5Computing A field in a record which is used to identify that record uniquely.
      ‘The optional TYPE part of the foreign key name is used to support multiple keys to the same TABLE FIELD.’
  • 4Music
    A group of notes based on a particular note and comprising a scale, regarded as forming the tonal basis of a piece of music.

    ‘the key of E minor’
    • ‘Today, I am only going to listen to music played in major keys.’
    • ‘The pieces are all arranged as short, two-page pieces in the keys of C, F, G, D and B-flat major.’
    • ‘In my profession it may even be disadvantageous because it happens that we play a piece in a different key.’
    • ‘The first section scampers about in a happy fashion but darkens suddenly in the key of D minor.’
    • ‘Transposition is explained in a concise manner on the last page, making it easy for students to learn how to play these exercises in other keys.’
    • ‘At this point I wish Mr Gibb had written it in a slightly lower key, but what is good enough for Barbra Streisand is good enough for me.’
    tone, pitch, timbre, tonality, tone colour, modulation
    View synonyms
    1. 4.1The tone or pitch of someone's voice.
      ‘his voice had changed to a lower key’
      • ‘She tried to keep her voice down to a calm key.’
      • ‘Madame Lebrun was bustling in and out, giving orders in a high key to a yard-boy.’
    2. 4.2The prevailing tone of a piece of writing, situation, etc.
      ‘it was like the sixties all over again, in a new, more austerely intellectual key’
      • ‘Kingsley plays Ford in a near-hysterical key throughout, his jealousy tinged with full-blown paranoia.’
      • ‘The language of religion will return towards the end of his life, but in a different key, in his final collection of poems.’
      • ‘Burke comments in a more sombre key that ‘We may have spent several centuries not seeing the wood for the trees’.’
      • ‘Described in the press notes as ‘a love story in a minor key,’ this will certainly strike a chord with fans of character drama.’
      style, character, mood, vein, spirit, feel, feeling, flavour, quality, humour, atmosphere
      View synonyms
    3. 4.3The prevailing range of tones in a painting.
      ‘these mauves, lime greens, and saffron yellows recall the high key of El Greco's palette’
      • ‘The technique gives a high key but a reduced range of brightness.’
      • ‘Because of the dots and the diagonal lines and unmodulated color, I work in a color key that I love to play with.’
      • ‘Canaletto began to turn out views which were more topographically accurate, set in a higher key, and with smoother handling.’
      • ‘Embodying the high key of colour associated with Rubénisme, it nevertheless belongs to the tradition of monumental mural painting begun by Le Brun.’
  • 5The dry winged fruit of an ash, maple, or sycamore, typically growing in bunches; a samara.

    ‘Visitors were not allowed to use pens or pencils but to use other media such as twigs, sycamore keys and string, among other things, with Indian ink to make marks.’
  • 6The part of a first coat of wall plaster that passes between the laths and so secures the rest.

    ‘If the surface was primed with DG27, this first coat should be thick enough to cover over all of the key.’
    1. 6.1The roughness of a surface, helping the adhesion of plaster or other material.
      • ‘Scratch the render to form a key and, the next day, fill flush with a slightly weaker mix.’
      • ‘The nibs help to secure the plaster to the lattice, reinforcing the key or bond between plaster and wood.’
      • ‘Some rock lath was textured or perforated to provide a key for wet plaster.’
  • 7Basketball
    The keyhole-shaped area marked on the court near each basket.

    ‘he hit another jumper from the top of the key’
    • ‘The post player nearest the ball is the one to break and set a screen for the guard near the top of the key.’
    • ‘If you want, you can stand near the top of the key and make the players go around you.’
    • ‘Oregon retrieved the opening tip, and Flash dribbled down the court and hit a three from the top of the key.’
    • ‘Steph's no-look pass from the top of the key last night was one of the top 10 plays of the year so far.’
    • ‘Well, the post away from the ball gets a pick and then breaks across the key.’

adjective

  • Of crucial importance.

    ‘she became a key figure in the suffragette movement’
    • ‘There are also moments when the emotional responses of key characters in key situations completely fail to ring true.’
    • ‘The Republicans also won a series of major victories in key congressional races.’
    • ‘His friendships with key figures in government go back decades.’
    • ‘They say that in this case, some of the people who are retiring are in key positions.’
    • ‘On top of that the web-based form error checked itself, prompting you to fill in key information.’
    • ‘Before discussing our findings, it is important to consider key limitations of the study.’
    • ‘But they paid the price for conceding too many penalties and making too many basic errors in key situations.’
    • ‘We could do with a couple of key professionals in key positions.’
    • ‘After only three years the business now consists of several different companies - all operating in key markets.’
    • ‘I scored it a draw, with probably little overall effect on the race nationally and in key states.’
    • ‘Still of key importance, the zone remains staffed by eight dedicated professionals.’
    • ‘Child psychologists are being brought into a borough's schools in a bid to pull up performance in key tests and exams.’
    • ‘Tournaments like this have made paintball what it is today through high exposure in key North American cities.’
    • ‘The intention is to make the city a centre of innovation in key technologies and the authorities are betting heavily on it.’
    • ‘Yesterday public schools in Yorkshire blamed the rises on a dramatic increase in key costs faced by all institutions.’
    • ‘York Council is already covering the costs of storing the lights and paying for Christmas lighting in key city centre locations.’
    • ‘Both sides were short a number of key players for this important match.’
    • ‘By focusing on key events and the figures central to those events, you make women as good as invisible, runs the argument.’
    • ‘One of Alexander's key decisions will be whether to build airport rail links, and, if so, which one to build first.’
    • ‘In particular, the size of the local catchment area will be key.’
    crucial, central, essential, indispensable, basic, fundamental, pivotal, critical, decisive, dominant, vital, principal, salient, prime, chief, major, leading, main, important, significant
    View synonyms

verbkeys, keying, keyed

[with object]
  • 1Enter or operate on (data) by means of a computer keyboard or telephone keypad.

    ‘she keyed in a series of commands’
    no object ‘a hacker caused disruption after keying into a vital database’
    • ‘A digital image of the check is then taken and the system verifies the amount matches the one the customer keyed in.’
    • ‘Even in 2005, historical data sometimes has to be keyed in by hand!’
    • ‘The details will already be keyed into the computer and forwarded to the pharmacy of their choice.’
    • ‘Within 30 seconds of being keyed in, applications can be viewed on-screen by the hiring company.’
    • ‘Pics have to be uploaded directly from my laptop using the connection at home - while the words are better keyed in from an internet cafe.’
    • ‘Riddell's compositions had to be manually translated from graphic scores into very low-level information that could be keyed into the computer.’
    • ‘Whatever they keyed in was read back to them by the computer, complete with any wrong spellings, which encouraged them to make sure everything was correct.’
    • ‘Start by creating the keywords you would key into a search engine to find a website like yours.’
    • ‘Seconds later, Susan was already standing behind Pete's screen, checking through the codes that Pete had keyed in.’
    • ‘I reckon since I arrived and purchased my mobile phone I have keyed in and later deleted at least 25 numbers.’
    • ‘Hundreds of shoppers took advantage of a discount scheme - in compensation for late delivery - for which they keyed in an individual code.’
    • ‘He moved over to his console again and keyed in a few commands.’
    • ‘Doctor Slater finished writing out several prescriptions, then keyed in the pharmacy delivery passwords and nodded as the confirmation was displayed.’
    • ‘Whenever I keyed in my password my fingers shook.’
    • ‘Thus, anyone who drops in should feel free to type in a question so that it will be keyed up when I return.’
    • ‘Zack rubs his hands together as John keys in some data on his terminal.’
    • ‘AIB transactions are conducted at the Post Office counter, via a dedicated pinpad through which the customer keys in their secret code.’
    • ‘As they effortlessly key in the words there is not even an iota of confusion among them.’
    • ‘She took ages to key in her PIN, took ages to decide what she wanted.’
    • ‘She keyed in her numbers then took her card when it popped back out.’
  • 2with object and adverbial Fasten (something) in position with a pin, wedge, or bolt.

    ‘the coils may be keyed into the slots by fibre wedges’
    • ‘With small machines, the core plates are keyed direct to the shaft.’
    • ‘Immovably keyed upon the cranked shaft is a heavy wooden cone pulley.’
    • ‘Since the crank is keyed to the pin, I'll have to arrange for each pin to come out of its main driver, rotated as far behind the vertical center-line as it is forward, then pressed back in.’
  • 3Roughen (a surface) to help the adhesion of plaster or other material.

    ‘a wooden float with nails driven through it is used to key the wall surface between coats’
    • ‘Where no keying mix or bonding agent is specified, wet smooth concrete surfaces immediately before plastering.’
    • ‘If the piece is varnished or painted, sand it well to remove most of the finish and key the surface.’
  • 4Word (an advertisement in a periodical), typically by varying the form of the address given, so as to identify the publication generating particular responses.

    ‘one keys advertisements and measures returns’
    • ‘But the firm makes much of its money from selling advertising space keyed to the words for which its users search.’
  • 5informal Vandalize (a car) by scraping its paint with a key.

    • ‘I couldn't come up with anything that wouldn't get my car keyed or otherwise vandalized in the middle of the night.’
    • ‘My car had been keyed and my kids had been verbally assaulted after accidentally hitting the neighbour's window with a snowball.’
    • ‘For the girl ranting about keying SUVs. I'm so glad you've decided to fight against people's destructive actions with such a constructive solution.’
    • ‘Again, the car did its job with confident ease and didn't get keyed in the car park.’
  • 6North American informal Be the crucial factor in achieving.

    ‘Ewing keyed a 73–35 advantage on the boards with twenty rebounds’
    • ‘Kaczowka keyed the offensive attack with 21 points and nine rebounds, while point guard Dani Langford contributed 15 points and eight assists.’
    • ‘Charleton's 23 points and Neufeld's 22 points keyed SFU's offensive attack.’
    • ‘The run was keyed by the re-entry into the game of forward Mike Sovran, a fifth year co-captain, who scored seven points in that span.’
    • ‘The Clan attack was keyed by Jessica Kaczowka and Teresa Kleindienst.’

Phrases

    in (or out of) key
    • In (or out of) harmony.

      ‘this uplifting conclusion is out of key with the body of his book’
      • ‘I mean, people singing along to songs, even horribly out of key, is better than groups of people talking loudly in some sort of strange choir.’
      • ‘Here, though, they're wavering, sliding in and out of key.’
      • ‘Every song is sure to be awesome and sung out of key.’
      • ‘The saxophonist plays one of his own improvisations, deliberately falling out of key, catching himself.’
      • ‘The highlight of my night occurred when three math majors sang ‘Like a Virgin’ horribly out of key.’
      • ‘Unless you've never stopped, you'll have to rediscover this voice to properly extend your range, stop straining your vocal chords and singing out of key.’
      • ‘The secretary of the Bradford branch of the union said: ‘If you get this wrong a whole group of schools can be totally out of key.’’
      • ‘This would last until a major fight broke out over who had the best voice… or because one of us had said the other was out of key or whatever.’
      • ‘I can express myself vocally and I can stay in key, but I don't think I have such an awesome voice.’
      • ‘Many felt even this would have been an over-development, out of key with other planning studies and proposals, which have proposed lower buildings.’

Phrasal Verbs

    key someone/something into (or in with)
    • Cause someone or something to be in harmony with.

      ‘to those who are keyed into his lunatic sense of humour, the arrival of any Bergman movie is a major comic event’
      • ‘Beloved smells that key you into positive memories and experience can be all the difference you need.’
      • ‘Do it until a single word or image is enough to key you into that state of being - emulate Pavlov's dogs.’
      • ‘The issues that conference committees ask presenters to address can often key you into trends in the field.’
      • ‘It is a poignant passage that will stand the test of time and key you into meanings of shadow and redemption.’
      • ‘He slums about the town with his friends, falls in and out of drug addiction and keys us into the whole process.’
      • ‘I am sure you have something precious in your world which can key you into a harmonious vibration.’
      • ‘I was hoping that there might be something in there that would key me into the problem.’
      • ‘Last night I was trying to key you into some of the wisdom we have accumulated through this close-knit project of ours.’
      • ‘Your supervisor is a major resource who can key you into the dynamics of the organization and external factors that may affect your plans or area of responsibility.’
      • ‘At once he keys us into his position by speaking of language as an instrument that we, its masters, can choose to play in whatever way we wish.’
      • ‘Sometimes a title or a word will key me into the deeper store house of memories, dreams helping to project them into the music.’
      • ‘But like it or not, we will have to be keyed into the world economy in the years to come.’
      • ‘Make no mistake, I'm fully keyed into the instant world.’
      • ‘She's selling singles by new/unsigned bands she's discovered to people who are already keyed into her tastes and likes.’
      • ‘His to-the-camera monologues are absolutely the best thing about the film (for those who aren't keyed into the Manchester music scene, that is).’
      • ‘She is keyed into the American mainstream and she asks the questions we would all ask if presented with the opportunity to question celebrities.’
    key something to
    North American
    • Link something to.

      ‘courses keyed to the needs of health professionals’
      • ‘For texts which authors and publishers wish to keep free of superscript symbols, endnotes are keyed to such points of reference as page numbers or repeat identifying phrases from the text.’
      • ‘The extensive end notes are keyed to each chapter.’
      • ‘The interest rate may go up or down over the years, and it is keyed to a financial market index.’
      • ‘The numbers above the heads of the passengers are keyed to lines of dialogue recorded below.’
      • ‘The researchers speculate that misbehaviors are keyed to ‘perceptions of inequities in the science resource distribution’ process.’
      • ‘His work, because it is keyed to the environment in which he performs, has never been recorded because he has felt that this presentation would minimize the impact of his performance.’
      • ‘Many of these regulations are keyed to specific resources within ecological systems rather than to addressing the system as a whole.’
      • ‘The displays seem to resonate with the public, especially if the themes are keyed to their cities' histories, Clark said.’
      • ‘To help users locate these features, each item on this list was keyed to a geometric grid that was overprinted on the face of the maps.’
      • ‘The recall module is keyed to a preselected sound.’
      • ‘I'm looking for everything on a specific keyword, and if some store is keyed to that word I'm going to get their stuff.’
      • ‘The Google search engine has paid advertising, and it is keyed to the object of a user's search.’
      • ‘Look at your tax form - the explanatory guide that comes with it is keyed to the T1 form.’
      • ‘From a teaching point of view, therefore, the manual is excellent and, although it is keyed to a particular package, I think it would be a very good teaching tool.’
      • ‘There is indeed a digital divide in cyberculture studies, and, like the digital divide in on-line access, it is keyed to racial categories.’
      • ‘This symbol may come in the shape of a broach, lapel pin, medallion, anything imaginable, but it is keyed to its owner and allows them certain abilities.’
      • ‘Rather than being keyed to clinical care it is keyed to other activities that the university wishes, such as academic things (especially peer reviewed papers).’
      • ‘The clavicle (Latin for a little key) keys the shoulder blade to the breast bone.’
      • ‘It invites us to join the melodrama, keying our responses to the silly excess of the movie itself.’
      • ‘Bureaucratic incentives aren't keyed to getting jobs for those on welfare.’
    be keyed up
    • Be nervous, tense, or excited, especially before an important event.

      ‘he was keyed up at the thought of seeing Rosemary’
      • ‘I allowed myself to be keyed up and nervous before I got here, but now I am here I focus on the business.’
      • ‘The 28th Division was keyed up by a visit and inspection from their boss Eisenhower, certain in the knowledge that they were to be among the first to assault France.’
      • ‘And there's another reason why Priaulx is keyed up about the races at his home track: ‘I spent a long time at Silverstone as an instructor.’’
      • ‘Fresh off a successful concert on Saturday night, the talented Maria Dunn is keyed up about two gigs she has this weekend.’
      • ‘Since I was keyed up from the day's preparations (working, packing, traveling), it took me a few hours to relax though.’
      • ‘It was much earlier than Jake usually got to his office, but he was keyed up, and hadn't been able to sleep.’
      • ‘You know, Ms. Jackson, I have really been keyed up about this interview, and I guess maybe it shows.’
      • ‘He did not do much against South Africa and therefore, would be keyed up to prove a point or two.’
      • ‘After bath, brush and lotion, we were keyed up so it took about 20 minutes to calm down and go to sleep.’
      • ‘Everyone was keyed up and had been worrying about my safety in getting from the station to the house.’
      • ‘In it you can relax and let your guard down instead of being keyed up or on edge all the time.’
      • ‘The Venezuelans should be here any minute and this lobby full of reporters is keyed up and ready to pounce.’
      • ‘Johnny is keyed up about tomorrow, the Fourth of July: lots of fun times ahead for him and his family.’
      • ‘The atmosphere was really good, everyone was keyed up and looking forward to the water fun.’
      • ‘We had already been keyed up for the June 5 assault, and now we had another day of adrenalin rush to deal with.’
      • ‘It was impossible to disguise the fact that Bolton was keyed up to an almost unbearable pitch.’
      • ‘You had better believe that there were a number of golf pros who were keyed up a little bit more than usual.’
      • ‘Not having visited the town since last year, he had been keyed up about what had meant to be a three-day trip.’
      • ‘I tried a couple of times to get her to giggle hard enough to make her snort, but both of us were kind of keyed up so my attempts failed pretty miserably.’
      • ‘At midnight when you get off work and you're all keyed up, I'm all worn out.’

Origin

Old English cǣg, cǣge, of unknown origin.

Pronunciation

key

/kiː/

Main definitions of key in English

: key1key2

key2

noun

  • A low-lying island or reef, especially in the Caribbean.

    • ‘Now, you'll appreciate that the Bahamas is an island chain of more than 700 islands and keys.’
    • ‘These flat and unexceptional little keys, just south of Cuba in the Northern Caribbean, enjoy the status of a tax haven.’
    • ‘He was sentenced to life imprisonment at Fort Jefferson, a huge fort in the Dry Tortugas, islands 70 miles off the Florida keys.’
    • ‘People are urged to keep a close eye on this storm: mandatory evacuations already have been issued for Florida's keys.’
    • ‘A lot of people have already left the keys, along with some mainland residents.’
    • ‘Storm surge will also be a concern in southwest Florida, the keys, and the areas surrounding Lake Okeechobee.’

Origin

Late 17th century from Spanish cayo ‘shoal, reef’, influenced by quay.

Pronunciation

key

/kiː/