Principle definition

prĭnsə-pəl
Frequency:
A basic truth, law, or assumption.

The principles of democracy.

noun
67
20
A natural or original tendency, faculty, or endowment.
noun
42
16
A basic or essential quality or element determining intrinsic nature or characteristic behavior.

The principle of self-preservation.

noun
37
13
A fundamental truth, law, doctrine, or motivating force, upon which others are based.

Moral principles.

noun
23
8
(chemistry) One of the elements that compose a substance, especially one that gives some special quality or effect.
noun
26
14
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A rule or law concerning the functioning of natural phenomena or mechanical processes.

The principle of jet propulsion.

noun
13
8
An essential element, constituent, or quality, esp. one that produces a specific effect.

The active principle of a medicine.

noun
3
1
Adherence to them; integrity; uprightness.

A man of principle.

noun
3
1
A fixed or predetermined policy or mode of action.
noun
6
5
A source, or origin; that from which anything proceeds; fundamental substance or energy; primordial substance; ultimate element, or cause.
noun
2
1
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The definition of a principle is a basic truth or the source or origin of something or someone.

An example of principle is a list of values set by a group of people.

noun
1
1
A rule or standard, especially of good behavior.

A man of principle.

noun
1
1
The collectivity of moral or ethical standards or judgments.

A decision based on principle rather than expediency.

noun
1
1
A rule of conduct, esp. of right conduct.
noun
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1
Such rules collectively.
noun
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The scientific law that explains a natural action.

The principle of cell division.

noun
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1
The method of a thing's operation.

The principle of a gasoline engine is internal combustion.

noun
1
1
A fundamental assumption.

We need some sort of principles to reason from.

noun
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1
A rule used to choose among solutions to a problem.

The principle of least privilege holds that a process should only receive the permissions it needs.

noun
1
1
(usually in the plural) Moral rule or aspect.

I don't doubt your principles; you are clearly a person of principle. It's the principle of the thing; I won't do business with someone I can't trust.

noun
1
1
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(physics) A rule or law of nature, or the basic idea on how the laws of nature are applied.

Bernoulli's principle; The Pauli Exclusion Principle prevents two fermions from occupying the same state. The principle of the internal combustion engine.

noun
1
1
A fundamental essence, particularly one producing a given quality.

Many believe that life is the result of some vital principle.

noun
1
1
An original faculty or endowment.
noun
1
1
To equip with principles; to establish, or fix, in certain principles; to impress with any tenet or rule of conduct.
verb
1
1
The ultimate source, origin, or cause of something.
noun
9
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A basic source.
noun
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2
in principle
  • With regard to the basics:
    An idea that is acceptable in principle.
idiom
2
2
on principle
  • According to or because of principle.
idiom
2
2
in principle
  • theoretically or in essence
idiom
3
3
on principle
  • because of or according to a principle
idiom
2
2
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Other Word Forms

Noun

Singular:
principle
Plural:
principles

Origin of principle

  • Middle English alteration of Old French principe from Latin prīncipium from prīnceps prīncip- leader, emperor per1 in Indo-European roots

    From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition

  • From Old French principe, from Latin principium (“beginning, foundation"), from princeps (“first"); see prince.

    From Wiktionary