A source of authority; a sum of a debt or obligation producing interest; the head of a school. In an agency relationship, the principal is the person who gives authority to another, called an agent, to act on his or her behalf. In CRIMINAL LAW, the principal is the chief actor or perpetrator of a crime; those who aid, abet, counsel, command, or induce the commission of a crime may also be principals. In investments and banking, the principal refers to the person for whom a BROKER executes an order; it may also mean the capital invested or the face amount of a loan.
A principal in the first degree is the chief actor or perpetrator of a crime. A principal in the second degree must be present at the commission of the criminal act and aid, abet, or encourage the principal in his or her criminal activity.