pre·​cept | \ ˈprē-ˌsept How to pronounce precept (audio) \

Definition of precept

1 : a command or principle intended especially as a general rule of action
2 : an order issued by legally constituted authority to a subordinate official

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Choose the Right Synonym for precept

law, rule, regulation, precept, statute, ordinance, canon mean a principle governing action or procedure. law implies imposition by a sovereign authority and the obligation of obedience on the part of all subject to that authority. obey the law rule applies to more restricted or specific situations. the rules of the game regulation implies prescription by authority in order to control an organization or system. regulations affecting nuclear power plants precept commonly suggests something advisory and not obligatory communicated typically through teaching. the precepts of effective writing statute implies a law enacted by a legislative body. a statute requiring the use of seat belts ordinance applies to an order governing some detail of procedure or conduct enforced by a limited authority such as a municipality. a city ordinance canon suggests in nonreligious use a principle or rule of behavior or procedure commonly accepted as a valid guide. the canons of good taste

Examples of precept in a Sentence

the basic precepts of a religion I was taught by precept and by example.
Recent Examples on the Web The precept that wars make states make constitutions held elsewhere. Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, 22 Mar. 2021 Anything that challenges that precept must be put down. Charles M. Blow New York Times, Star Tribune, 8 Mar. 2021 Duany would offer another precept for climate-resilient architecture. David Walter, Washington Post, 14 Sep. 2020 The Democrats’ guiding strategic precept is: Never let a crisis go to waste. Kyle Smith, National Review, 14 Aug. 2020 The precept that the U.S., the world’s premier nuclear power, should never rule out the first use of nuclear weapons is one that previous presidents, including George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, have questioned but never changed. Jamie Mcintyre, Washington Examiner, 13 Aug. 2020 His thoughts need almost no alteration for modern times and are still excellent advice, perhaps especially for a world in quarantine (with the exception of precepts 6 and 7; see below). Verlyn Klinkenborg, The New York Review of Books, 14 May 2020 Princeton, the Ivy League university located in New Jersey, said all lectures, seminars, and precepts will be moved to virtual instruction starting on March 23, after spring break, according to Princeton University President Chris Eisgruber. Chris Boyette, CNN, 9 Mar. 2020 The precepts laid down there form the foundations of the medical philosophies that shape our health care today. Jordan Kisner, The Atlantic, 7 Mar. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'precept.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of precept

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for precept

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin praeceptum, from neuter of praeceptus, past participle of praecipere to take beforehand, instruct, from prae- + capere to take — more at heave entry 1

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Time Traveler for precept

Time Traveler

The first known use of precept was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Precept.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jun. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of precept

formal : a rule that says how people should behave


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