keys


Also found in: Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Acronyms, Idioms, Encyclopedia.

key 1

 (kē)
n. pl. keys
1.
a. A notched and grooved, usually metal implement that is turned to open or close a lock.
b. A similar implement or an electronic device used for opening, winding, or starting something: the key of a wind-up alarm clock; the new car's electronic key.
c. A device, such as a wedge or pin, inserted to lock together mechanical or structural parts.
d. A keycard.
2. A determining factor in accomplishing or achieving something: One key to the store's success has been consistent customer service.
3.
a. Something that provides access to or understanding of something else: The key to the mystery was a drug store receipt.
b. A set of answers to a test.
c. A table, gloss, or cipher containing correspondences, as for decoding or interpreting something.
d. Computers A number used by a cryptographic algorithm to encrypt or decrypt data.
4. Architecture The keystone in the crown of an arch.
5.
a. A button or lever that is depressed to operate a machine.
b. A button that is depressed to cause a corresponding character or function to be typed or executed by a typewriter or to be accepted as input by a computer.
c. Music A button or lever that is depressed with the finger to produce or modulate the sound of an instrument, such as a clarinet or piano.
6. Music
a. A tonal system consisting of seven tones in fixed relationship to a tonic, having a characteristic key signature and being the structural foundation of the bulk of Western music; tonality.
b. The principal tonality of a work: an etude in the key of E.
7. The pitch of a voice or other sound.
8. A characteristic tone or level of intensity, as of a speech or sales campaign. Often used in combination: high-key; low-key.
9. Botany A samara.
10. An outline of the distinguishing characteristics of a group of organisms, used as a guide in taxonomic identification.
11. Basketball An area at each end of the court between the baseline and the foul line and including the jump-ball circle at the foul line: a jump shot from the top of the key.
12. The act of replacing portions of a video or photograph containing a preselected color with material from a separate image, as by chroma key.
adj.
Of crucial importance; significant: key decisions; the key element of the thesis.
v. keyed, key·ing, keys
v.tr.
1. To lock with a key.
2. To be the determining or crucial factor in: a double that keyed a three-run rally in the fifth inning.
3. Architecture To furnish (an arch) with a keystone.
4. Music To regulate the pitch of.
5. To bring into harmony; adjust or adapt: "achievement tests that are more clearly keyed to what students are held responsible for in high school" (New York Times).
6. To cause to pay attention to: school officials who were keyed into the dietary needs of students.
7. To supply with a key of correspondences or with corresponding references: keyed the pages in the edited book to illustrations in the manuscript.
8.
a. To operate (a device), as for typesetting, by means of a keyboard.
b. To enter (data) into a computer by means of a keyboard.
9. To identify (a biological specimen).
10. To vandalize or mar by scratching with a key: Vandals keyed the cars left in the parking garage.
11. To produce, replace, or include by chroma key.
v.intr.
1. To pay close attention; focus: improved service by keying on customer complaints; keyed into the main points of the lecture.
2. Sports To watch or cover an opposing player closely in an effort to limit the player's effectiveness. Used with on: "[She] still carries the burden of scoring ... even though opponents key on her throughout every game" (Josh Barr).
3. To replace portions of a video or photograph containing a preselected color with material from a separate image, as by chroma key.
Phrasal Verb:
key up
To make intense, excited, or nervous: The actors were keyed up before the opening.
Idioms:
in key
In consonance with other factors.
out of key
Not in consonance with other factors.

[Middle English kai, kei, from Old English cǣg.]

key 2

 (kē)
n. pl. keys
A low offshore island or reef, especially in the Gulf of Mexico; a cay.

[Alteration (influenced by key, variant of quay) of Spanish cayo; see cay.]

key 3

 (kē)
n. pl. keys Slang
A kilogram of marijuana, cocaine, or heroin.

[Shortening and alteration of kilogram.]

keys

(kiːz)
interj
dialect Scot a children's cry for truce or respite from the rules of a game
[origin uncertain]
Translations
References in classic literature ?
No one but Beth could get much music out of the old piano, but she had a way of softly touching the yellow keys and making a pleasant accompaniment to the simple songs they sang.
I can see her at this moment: her short, square person planted firmly on the stool, her little fat hands moving quickly and neatly over the keys, her eyes fixed on the music with intelligent concentration.
From his trousers pockets he took a fistful of crumpled bank notes and a good deal of silver coin, which he piled on the bureau indiscriminately with keys, knife, handkerchief, and whatever else happened to be in his pockets.
Locks are to be put upon some of his trap-doors and shutters; and a footman will show round future visitors with a bunch of keys at his side.
The ceremony of delivering the keys had better come off forthwith.
At custom-houses the multitude file tediously through, hot and irritated, and look on while the officers burrow into the trunks and make a mess of everything; but you hand your keys to the courier and sit still.
She shook her head, put the music aside, and after running over the keys for a minute, complained of feebleness in her fingers, and closed the instrument again; declaring however with firmness as she did so, that she should in future practice much.
Leah, make a little hot negus and cut a sandwich or two: here are the keys of the storeroom.
My curiosity and suspicions were roused; I determined to take a peep at her mysterious treasures; so, at night, as soon as she and my master were safe upstairs, I searched, and readily found among my house keys one that would fit the lock.
Medlock was coming up it with her bunch of keys in her hand and a very cross look on her face.
I dare say I have left it in the library, along with my other keys," said Mr.
Then the strong-rooms underground, at Tellson's, with such of their valuable stores and secrets as were known to the passenger (and it was not a little that he knew about them), opened before him, and he went in among them with the great keys and the feebly-burning candle, and found them safe, and strong, and sound, and still, just as he had last seen them.