What is the difference between center and middle?Which sentence is correct:

The book in the center of the table.


The book is in the middle of the table.

  • 1
    The definitions in many dictionaries are very similar, so I don't think this should be closed. I think it is difficult for a learner to tell whether two different words might have a difference in nuance or usage simply by looking at dictionary definitions.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 3, 2016 at 14:00
  • Duplicate question from the English Language and Usage SE.
    – adib
    Mar 5, 2018 at 5:43

5 Answers 5


Middle and center often have the same meaning, especially to the general public.

However, if you work in a more technical profession, such as Engineering or Architecture (and others), we tend to use the word center when we want to be more technical - for example - "the center of a circle" or "the center of the diagram." These are examples when we need the exact coordinates of the geometric center.

Middle is more general. We don't care if the book is in the exact geometric center of the table, as long as it looks like it is in the middle.

You will find that outside of these technical professions, English speakers use the two words in the same way, with the same meaning.

Hope this helps!


Middle just means intermediate, and isn't specific. However, centre is the specific geometrical (or geographical or whatever one works on) middle.

  • 1
    Welcome to ELL. Please elaborate on your answer, perhaps use examples to explain why you think your answer is right. Examples tend to help the OP understand the answers much better.
    – Varun Nair
    Oct 9, 2017 at 10:36

The simple answer I got is:

Center is between Right and Left and Middle is between Top and Bottom

Middle can be center but center can't be middle.

this is my own research, I hope this can help others.

  • 1
    Can you provide a reference for this? What is the source of your research? In general, we value references to reputable resources, like well-known dictionaries.
    – Em.
    Jun 20, 2020 at 6:00
  • Elegant short answer for the context of geometry! My answer is the same in essence, but more lengthy with some references all confirming this interpretation. Nevertheless I'm not a native English speaker and would appreciate a verification/falsification of this meaning. I think a good place for reference would be official specifications such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) which deal with the topic of positioning. I will try to search there and report back here should I get useful results.
    – porg
    Jun 2, 2022 at 18:19

Horizontal ↔︎ X-axis has left center right whereas Vertical ↕︎ Y-axis has top middle bottom

  • In a context that describes both horizontal and vertical positioning, the appropriate adjectives seem to be ↔︎center for the ↔︎horizontal-axis and ↕︎middle for the ↕︎ vertical-axis.

  • Please know: English is my business language in a design profession but nevertheless not my native tongue. I'd appreciate a confirmation of the meaning in this special context.

  • Image results for an Internet search for "Left Center Right Top Middle Bottom" support the meaning as described above:

table_cell_alignments 🔗

cell-content-align 🔗

photoshop-layers-panel 🔗

  • This is only true in this specific case, where it is necessary to differentiate between the x and y axes.
    – Chenmunka
    Jun 2, 2022 at 18:10
  • So do you confirm that if there is a context of X and Y axes, then center and middle, which in other contexts sometimes are synonymous or have other kind of differentiations among them, indeed are used for center along the ↔︎ X-axis and middle along the ↕︎ Y-axis ?
    – porg
    Jun 2, 2022 at 21:59
  • No. The usage in this case is simply jargon created by the manufacturer as shorthand for reference to the two axes. The screenshot you provide would be much more verbose if it didn't simplify the language in this way.
    – Chenmunka
    Jun 3, 2022 at 7:37
  • Thanks for the info! Geometric positioning in computer/print layouts needed a differentiation along the axes, and a seemingly arbitrary new contextual association was formed. And over time this may stick and get canon.
    – porg
    Jun 3, 2022 at 13:13

if we will type sentence in excel sheet. that column top and bottom space is equal so we can say sentence is in middle. in same column when we will count sentence right and left space and make it in center so it will be in center so row wise is center and column wise is middle

  • Please address the given context with an authoritative explanation. Using Excel as an example does not seem reflective of the given context and everyday usage.
    – Em.
    Jan 20, 2019 at 22:10

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