Definition of principle
1a : a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumptionb (1) : a rule or code of conduct (2) : habitual devotion to right principles a man of principlec : the laws or facts of nature underlying the working of an artificial device
2 : a primary source : origin
4 capitalized, Christian Science : a divine principle : god
: with respect to fundamentals prepared to accept the proposition in principle
principle vs. principal
Although nearly every handbook and many dictionaries warn against confusing principle and principal, many people still do. Principle is only a noun; principal is both adjective and noun. If you are unsure which noun you want, read the definitions in this dictionary.
Examples of principle in a Sentence
Urban guerrilla warfare was futile against a thermonuclear superstate that would stop at nothing to defend the profit principle. —Philip Roth, American Pastoral, 1997
Better, of course, to take a higher road, operate on the principle of service and see if things don't turn out better … —Richard Ford, Independence Day, 1995
Pointlessness was life's principle, and it spread its sadness. —Arthur Miller, Timebends, 1987
His investment strategy is based on the principle that the stock market offers the best returns for long-term investors.
the basic principles of hydraulics
Recent Examples of principle from the Web
The new Master Trainers join more than 100 others to educate high school and youth football programs on Heads Up Football principles.
And in November 1967, U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 established the guiding principles for Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, representing the war’s most important diplomatic legacy.
The airman completed an intensive, eight-week program that included training in military discipline and studies, Air Force core values, physical fitness, and basic warfare principles and skills.
Palestinians in east Jerusalem have residency status and, in principle, a right to apply for citizenship that few have chosen to exercise and that Israel in fact does not make easy.
In June 1962, 59 student activists met in Port Huron, Michigan, to draft a manifesto of their core principles.
Desire to control borders aligns the country more with the U.S.—though the rhetoric and tone are quite different from those of the three other European nations that defend the EU principle of freedom of movement.
Gross was inspired by King's principles after learning how his philosophy ignited historic change in the violent, segregated South in the 1960s.
In conflict zones, attacks on doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers continue unabated, flouting one of the oldest principles of international law: to respect the neutrality of medical workers in war.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'principle'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Origin and Etymology of principle
Middle English, from Middle French principe, principle, from Old French, from Latin principium beginning, from princip-, princeps initiator — more at prince
First Known Use: 14th century
PRINCIPLE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of principle for English Language Learners
: a moral rule or belief that helps you know what is right and wrong and that influences your actions
: a basic truth or theory : an idea that forms the basis of something
: a law or fact of nature that explains how something works or why something happens
PRINCIPLE Defined for Kids
Definition of principle for Students
1 : a general or basic truth on which other truths or theories can be based scientific principles
2 : a rule of conduct based on beliefs of what is right and wrong
3 : a law or fact of nature which makes possible the working of a machine or device the principle of magnetism
Medical Definition of principle
1: a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption
2: an ingredient (as a chemical) that exhibits or imparts a characteristic quality the active principle of a drug
Seen and Heard
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