(Latin: hinge, hinge of a door, pivot, that on which something turns; thus, principal, chief)

cardinal (s) (noun), cardinals (pl)
1. In the Roman Catholic Church, one of the group of clergy, next in rank to the pope: The cardinals elect a pope from their own group and act as his advisers.
2. A synod of leading dignitaries of the Roman Catholic Church: Cardinals are nominated by the pope and they form the Sacred College, which elects succeeding popes.
3. A crested finch, the male of which has bright red plumage with a black face; native to, North America: The bird's Latin name is "Cardinalis cardinals" and is generally known as a cardinal.
4. A woman's short cape with a hood: The cardinal cape was originally scarlet in color and was worn in the 17th and 18th centuries.
5. Etymology: from about 1125, "one of the ecclesiastical princes who constitute the sacred college" of the Catholic Church; from Latin cardinalis, "principal, chief, essential"; from cardo, cardinis, "that on which something turns or depends"; originally "door hinge".

Ecclesiastical usage began for the presbyters of the chief, or cardinal, churches of Rome.

cardinal (adjective), more cardinal, most cardinal
1. A reference to an essential or crucial component: George had certain cardinal rules that he strived to live by; such as, eating properly and exercising to maintain a healthy body.

The most cardinal rule of all that the manager, Mr. Jones, used in his business was to say "THANK YOU" to the people in his office when they did good work.

2. Relating to numerical quantities: Examples of cardinal numbers include one, two, three, four, etc. in comparison to ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc.) that indicate relative positions.

The teacher had a cardinal number of 30 pupils in her class.

3. Pertaining to a strong red color, like that of the robes of certain ecclesiastical people: In the early Catholic Church, some of the bishops and presbyters, or priests, were designated cardinal bishops and cardinal priests; all of whom exercised important functions and much depended on their services.

In time, from these developed into the "College of Cardinals" as we know it now.

The vestments, or ceremonial garments, of these dignitaries are red, and what we call cardinal red is a well-known color.

Relating to essential importance.
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cardinal number (s) (noun), cardinal numbers (pl)
A number that indicates a principal quantity: Cardinal numbers are the primary "one", "two", "three", "four", etc. as opposed to ordinal numbers "first", "second", "third", "fourth", etc.

cardinal point (s) (noun), cardinal points (pl)
Each of the four main points of the compass: The cardinal points are "north", "south", "east", and "west".
cardinal virtue (s) (noun), cardinal virtues (pl)
Each of the primary natural good or positive characteristics: The cardinal virtues have been divided into "justice", "prudence", "temperance", and "fortitude" while cardinal-theological virtues include "faith", "hope", and "charity".

cardinalate (s) (noun), cardinalates (pl)
The rank or office of a senior Roman Catholic prelate: Lana's uncle was a cardinalate or a member of the College of Cardinals.
cardinality (s) (noun), cardinalities (pl)
A reference to a set and the number of elements it contains: The cardinality of numbers indicate the quantities in a grouping.
Testicardines (pl) (noun)
A division of brachiopods including those which have a calcareous shell furnished with a hinge and hinge teeth: Testicardines each have two shells with a hinge and an internal skeleton.