mid·dle / ˈmidl/ • adj. 1. at an equal distance from the extremities of something; central: the early and middle part of life middle and eastern Europe. ∎ (of a member of a group, series, or sequence) so placed as to have the same number of members on each side: the woman was in her middle forties. ∎ intermediate in rank, quality, or ability: there is a dearth of talent at the middle level. ∎ (of a language) of the period between the old and modern forms: Middle High German.2. Gram. denoting a voice of verbs in some languages, such as Greek, that expresses reciprocal or reflexive action. ∎ denoting a transitive or intransitive verb in English with a passive sense, e.g., cuts in this meat cuts well.• n. 1. [usu. in sing.] the point or position at an equal distance from the sides, edges, or ends of something: she stood alone in the middle of the street. ∎ the point at or around the center of a process or activity, period of time, etc.: we were married in the middle of December. ∎ inf. a person's waist or waist and stomach: he had a towel around his middle.2. Gram. the form or voice of a verb expressing reflexive or reciprocal action, or a passive sense for a transitive or intransitive verb.3. short for middle term.PHRASES: down the middle divided or dividing something equally into two parts.in the middle of engaged in or in the process of doing something. ∎ involved in something, typically something unpleasant or dangerous: he was caught in the middle of the emotional triangle.the middle of nowhere inf. a place that is remote and isolated.steer (or take) a middle course adopt a policy that avoids extremes.
Middle Ages the period of European history from the fall of the Roman Empire in the West (5th century) to the fall of Constantinople (1453), or, more narrowly, from c.1000 to 1453.
Middle America the middle class in the United States, especially when regarded as a conservative political force; the Midwest of the United States regarded as the home of such people.
Middle England the middle classes in England outside London, especially as representative of conservative political views.
Middle English the English language from c.1150 to c.1470.
Middle Kingdom a period of ancient Egyptian history (c.2040–1640 bc, 11th–14th dynasty).
Middle Kingdom is also a former term for China or its eighteen inner provinces. The name is a translation of Chinese zhongguo ‘central state’, originally the name given to the imperial state, in contrast to the dependencies surrounding it; from 1911 onwards, part of the official name of the Chinese state.
Middle Kingdom is also used for the central region consisting of the Low Countries, Alsace, Lorraine, Burgundy, Provence, and Lombardy, and much of central Italy given to the Frankish king Lothair I by the Treaty of Verdun in 843.
middle passage the sea journey undertaken by slave ships from West Africa to the West Indies, seen as the middle part of the journey of the transportation of a slave from Africa to America. The term is first recorded in An Essay on the Impolicy of the African Slave Trade (1788) by the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson (1760–1846).
Middle Temple one of the two Inns of Court on the site of the Temple in London, England, the other being the Inner Temple.
See also play both ends against the middle at play2.