I just wonder how well-established "principal" really is (yeah, I know, J2EE 
and .NET
are pretty big establishments).
Actually they borrowed the word from security systems that predate them such as Kerberos. I think Kerberos again borrowed the term from security software dating back from Mainframe days.
Here is an early reference I found (1993) that makes heavy use of that term:


My biggest argument was that the understanding of a word is closely
connected to suitable and appropriate translations of it. So, my
question is, if big projects like J2EE and .NET have it, how do they
translate it? A quick google (I did it this time! ;)) showed that a
German translation doesn't seem to exist -- the English word is quoted
all the time. So, in the end, it means as much to a German person as
Fahrvergn├╝gen*) means to an English speaker..
Agreed.  I think using the English word would be fine.

I agree; however, one should question even well-established terms once
in a while. We've had a good year or two experimenting with the
acceptance of "principal". I wonder what people think; at least noone
here stood up for "principal" because he believed that this term really
fits the concept... (because it doesn't; the word denotes the headmaster
of an American school :))
I agree about questioning things, that's the best way (and maybe the only way) good ideas happen :-) However I think the term "principal" has a meaning that is much more broad. Check out the dictionary.com
definition, esp. under the "Law" heading:


I think this term did not originate with security software, rather from law and finance. This is how I recognized it when I first heard it applied in high tech. We borrow words like this all the time, for example talking about performing "triage" (a word borrowed from medicine).

All this having been said, I still think it would be OK to use a different word for different audiences. Programmers and System Administrators should understand "Principal" but I would never expect regular end users to use it. For them, I would probably use "User" or "Login" depending on
the context of the conversation.

hope this helps,


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