What Does The Center of Attention Mean?

Center of Attention Meaning

Definition: The person or thing that everyone pays attention to or focuses on.

Origin of Center of Attention

There are a few possible origin stories for this common phrase.

The first origin story is that the expression developed from the verb center. The word center comes from the Greek kentrum, which means the center point of a compass. This word entered English in the 1300s and meant the center of a circle. By the 1590s, it meant the center of anything. People began using center figuratively by the 1680s. Center of attention is attested from 1868.

The second origin story comes from a related phrase the center of attraction, which, according to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, comes from the field of physics.

According to this theory, center of attraction has been in use since around 1770, where it has denoted the point to which bodies tend by gravity or the action of centripetal force.

Examples of Center of Attention

The centre of attentionIn this example, a woman uses the idiom to tease her friend. 

Rodrigo: There’s a new play starting at the theater in a few weeks. I was thinking of trying out for the lead part.

Alisha: That doesn’t surprise me.

Rodrigo: Why do you say that?

Alisha: You always loved doing plays back in college. And you especially loved being the center of attention.

Rodrigo: Hey!

Alisha: You know it’s true.

how to be the center of attentionIn the example below, two friends are discussing an upcoming marriage.   

Luis: I am so happy. I really think my girlfriend and I are meant to be together forever.   

Stephanie: Really? That’s so exciting! Are you going to propose? 

Luis: Not yet. I want to wait for the perfect moment.

Stephanie: I can help you plan the wedding!

Luis: No, I don’t want a wedding. I can’t stand being the center of attention. I think we’ll just elope.

More Examples

This excerpt is from a letter to the editor. This letter writer believes that people should stop protesting a public speaker. She thinks they should ignore him instead. This is because he likes the attention.

  • As abhorrent and ridiculous as I find Yiannopoulus, I don’t think he deserves fiery protests. Being the center of attention is his only interest. Had he spoken without incident, he would not have met his goal. –LA Times

This excerpt is from a movie review. One of the characters wants other people to notice him.

  • This is especially the case when Eligio inevitably starts acting like his old self even in frigid Iowa, becoming the center of attention and attracting notice from friendly, blond Irene (Ashley Grace), a fetching young woman. –LA Times


The phrase center of attention means a person or thing that is interesting to everyone and draws the most attention in the room.