principle

noun
prin·​ci·​ple | \ ˈprin(t)-s(ə-)pəl How to pronounce principle (audio) , -sə-bəl \

Definition of principle

1a : a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption
b(1) : a rule or code of conduct
(2) : habitual devotion to right principles a man of principle
c : the laws or facts of nature underlying the working of an artificial device
2 : a primary source : origin
3a : an underlying faculty or endowment such principles of human nature as greed and curiosity
b : an ingredient (such as a chemical) that exhibits or imparts a characteristic quality
4 capitalized, Christian Science : a divine principle : god
in principle
: with respect to fundamentals prepared to accept the proposition in principle

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Principle vs. Principal: Usage Guide

Evidence of confusion between principle and principal can be found even in publications overseen by professional editors. To keep these words straight, remember that principle functions only as a noun, and in its most common uses refers to a basic rule or law, as in a guiding principle or a matter of principle. If you are looking for an adjective form of this word, you must use principled, as in taking a principled stand. Principal functions as both a noun and an adjective. The noun has various meanings referring to someone with controlling authority the school principal or in a leading position the ballet's two principals , but also has meanings relating to finance, law, and architecture. As an adjective, principal typically means "most important," as in the principal reason.

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
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Recent Examples on the Web Closing the divide requires everyone from technologists and designers to employers and governments to recognize that — and lead with that principle in decision-making, not leave it as an afterthought. Harold Li, Forbes, 5 May 2021 All potential leverage from economic sanctions has been abandoned, along with the principle of standing up for human rights. Robert Joseph, National Review, 23 Apr. 2021 Their guiding principle was to keep the show’s tone grounded, to prevent it from veering into the realm of caricature or soap opera. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, 21 May 2021 That attention to engagement and employee happiness is all part of the ethos of a firm founded on a principle of treating people like family. Victoria Ballard, sun-sentinel.com, 20 May 2021 Substack says its guiding principle is free speech. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 19 Mar. 2021 Its governing principle would be to ensure that the money supply is sufficient to meet the economic demand. Lauren Markham, Harper's Magazine, 16 Mar. 2021 His guiding principle for the Sea Ranch was to preserve the natural character of the landscape. Travel + Leisure, 15 Mar. 2021 Their basic principle in founding the service is that everything else in the world can be done on an iPhone or mobile device, so why not landscape design? Landon Pemper, Chron, 15 Mar. 2021

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.

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First Known Use of principle

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for principle

Middle English, from Middle French principe, principle, from Old French, from Latin principium beginning, from princip-, princeps initiator — more at prince

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Learn More about principle

Time Traveler for principle

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for principle

Last Updated

5 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Principle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/principle. Accessed 12 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for principle

principle

noun

English Language Learners Definition of principle

: 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

noun
prin·​ci·​ple | \ ˈprin-sə-pəl How to pronounce principle (audio) \

Kids Definition of principle

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

principle

noun
prin·​ci·​ple | \ ˈprin(t)-sə-pəl How to pronounce principle (audio) \

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

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