noun pre·cept \ˈprē-ˌsept\

Definition of precept

  1. 1 :  a command or principle intended especially as a general rule of action

  2. 2 :  an order issued by legally constituted authority to a subordinate official

Examples of precept in a sentence

  1. the basic precepts of a religion

  2. I was taught by precept and by example.

Origin and Etymology of 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

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of 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

PRECEPT Defined for English Language Learners


noun pre·cept \ˈprē-ˌsept\

Definition of precept for English Language Learners

  • : a rule that says how people should behave

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up precept? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to help become familiar with something

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • ludwig-richter-spring-has-arrived
  • Which is a synonym of upbraid?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.