ETYM Latin cardinalis, from cardo the hinge of a door, that on which a thing turns or depends: cf. French cardinal.
(applied to) Simple numbers, 1, 2, 3, etc.; applied to N, S, E, and W points of compass.
1. Being or denoting a numerical quantity but not order.
2. Serving as an essential component; SYN. central, fundamental, key, primal.
Crested thick-billed North American finch having bright red plumage in the male; SYN. cardinal grosbeak, Richmondena Cardinalis, Cardinalis cardinalis, redbird.
ETYM French carinal, Italian cardinale, Late Lat. cardinalis (ecclesiae Romanae). Related to Cardinal.
1. A variable color averaging a vivid red; SYN. carmine.
2. (Roman Catholic Church) One of a group of more than 100 prominent bishops in the Sacred College who advise the Pope and elect new Popes.
In the Roman Catholic church, the highest rank next to the pope. Cardinals act as an advisory body to the pope and elect him. Their red hat is the badge of office. The number of cardinals has varied; there were 151 in 1989.
Originally a cardinal was any priest in charge of a major parish, but in 1567 the term was confined to the members of the Sacred College, 120 of whom (below the age of 80) elect the pope and are themselves elected by him (since 1973). They advise on all matters of doctrine, canonizations, convocation of councils, liturgy, and temporal business.