When asked what the fundamental, or essential, principles of life are, a teenager might reply, "Breathe. Be a good friend. Eat chocolate. Get gas money."

Fundamental has its roots in the Latin word fundamentum, which means "foundation." So if something is fundamental, it is a key point or underlying issue — the foundation, if you will — that the thing is built upon. Teachers argue that math fundamentals include memorizing the times tables and understanding long division. Many people would also argue that math fundamentals should include knowing how to use a calculator and knowing where the calculator's extra batteries are kept.

Definitions of fundamental

adj serving as an essential component

“an example that was fundamental to the argument”
“computers are fundamental to modern industrial structure”
cardinal, central, key, primal
important, of import
of great significance or value

adj being or involving basic facts or principles

“the fundamental laws of the universe”
“a fundamental incomatibility between them”
rudimentary, underlying
pertaining to or constituting a base or basis

adj far-reaching and thoroughgoing in effect especially on the nature of something

“the fundamental revolution in human values that has occurred”
“the book underwent fundamental changes”
“committed the fundamental error of confusing spending with extravagance”
important, significant
important in effect or meaning

n any factor that could be considered important to the understanding of a particular business

fundamentals include a company's growth, revenues, earnings, management, and capital structure”
Type of:
anything that contributes causally to a result

n the lowest tone of a harmonic series

first harmonic, fundamental frequency
Type of:
a tone that is a component of a complex sound

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