of crucial importance:she became a key figure in the suffragette movement
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 cupboarda room key
a 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
an instrument for grasping and turning a screw, peg, or nut, especially one for winding a clock or turning a valve.
a pin, bolt, or wedge inserted into a hole or between parts so as to lock the parts together.
2each of several buttons on a panel for operating a computer, typewriter, or telephone:press the ENTER key
a 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
a lever operating a mechanical device for making or breaking an electric circuit, for example in telegraphy.
3a thing that provides a means of achieving or understanding something:discipline seems to be the key to her success
an explanatory list of symbols used in a map, table, etc..
a set of answers to exercises or problems:a key at the back of the book provides the answers
a 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
the first move in the solution of a chess problem.
Computing a field in a record which is used to identify that record uniquely.
4 Music 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
the tone or pitch of someone’s voice:his voice had changed to a lower key
the prevailing tone of a piece of writing, situation, etc.:it was like the sixties all over again, in a new, more austerely intellectual key
the prevailing range of tones in a painting:these mauves, lime greens, and saffron yellows recall the high key of El Greco’s palette
5the dry winged fruit of an ash, maple, or sycamore, typically growing in bunches; a samara.
6the part of a first coat of wall plaster that passes between the laths and so secures the rest.
the roughness of a surface, helping the adhesion of plaster or other material.
7 Basketball the keyhole-shaped area marked on the court near each basket:he hit another jumper from the top of the key
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
2 [with object and adverbial] fasten (something) in position with a pin, wedge, or bolt:the coils may be keyed into the slots by fibre wedges
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
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
5 informal vandalize (a car) by scraping its paint with a key.
6North American informal be the crucial factor in achieving:Ewing keyed a 73-35 advantage on the boards with twenty rebounds
in (or out of) key
in (or out of) harmony:this uplifting conclusion is out of key with the body of his book
key someone/thing 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
key something to
chiefly North American link something to:courses keyed to the needs of health professionals
be keyed up
be nervous, tense, or excited, especially before an important event:he was keyed up at the thought of seeing Rosemary