\ˈrül \

Definition of rule 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a prescribed guide for conduct or action

b : the laws or regulations prescribed by the founder of a religious order for observance by its members

c : an accepted procedure, custom, or habit

d(1) : a usually written order or direction made by a court regulating court practice or the action of parties

(2) : a legal precept or doctrine

e : a regulation or bylaw governing procedure or controlling conduct

2a(1) : a usually valid generalization

(2) : a generally prevailing quality, state, or mode fair weather was the rule yesterdayThe New York Times

b : a standard of judgment : criterion

c : a regulating principle

d : a determinate method for performing a mathematical operation and obtaining a certain result

3a : the exercise of authority or control : dominion

b : a period during which a specified ruler or government exercises control

4a : a strip of material marked off in units used especially for measuring : ruler sense 3, tape measure

b : a metal strip with a type-high face that prints a linear design also : a linear design produced by or as if by such a strip

as a rule

: for the most part : generally


ruled; ruling

Definition of rule (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to exert control, direction, or influence on the passions that rule our minds

b : to exercise control over especially by curbing or restraining rule a fractious horse ruled his appetites firmly

2a : to exercise authority or power over often harshly or arbitrarily the speaker ruled the legislature with an iron hand

b : to be preeminent in : dominate

3 : to determine and declare authoritatively especially : to command or determine judicially

4a(1) : to mark with lines drawn along or as if along the straight edge of a ruler

(2) : to mark (a line) on a paper with a ruler

b : to arrange in a line

intransitive verb

1a : to exercise supreme authority

b : to be first in importance or prominence : predominate the physical did not rule in her nature— Sherwood Anderson

2 : to exist in a specified state or condition

3 : to lay down a legal rule

4 slang : to be extremely cool or popular used as a generalized term of praise or approval for a little attitude at the right price, sneakers rule— Tish Hamilton

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Synonyms & Antonyms for rule

Synonyms: Noun

bylaw, ground rule, regulation

Synonyms: Verb

bridle, check, constrain, contain, control, curb, govern, hold, inhibit, keep, measure, pull in, regulate, rein (in), restrain, tame

Antonyms: Verb


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Choose the Right Synonym for rule


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


decide, determine, settle, rule, resolve mean to come or cause to come to a conclusion. decide implies previous consideration of a matter causing doubt, wavering, debate, or controversy. she decided to sell her house determine implies fixing the identity, character, scope, or direction of something. determined the cause of the problem settle implies a decision reached by someone with power to end all dispute or uncertainty. the dean's decision settled the campus alcohol policy rule implies a determination by judicial or administrative authority. the judge ruled that the evidence was inadmissible resolve implies an expressed or clear decision or determination to do or refrain from doing something. he resolved to quit smoking

Examples of rule in a Sentence


I understand the basic rules of chess. As long as you're living under our roof, you'll follow our rules. The college has strict rules for qualifying for financial assistance. The new rule allows employees to dress casually on Fridays. Under the new rules, casual dress is now allowed. the company's rules and regulations It's important to learn the rules of the road before taking your driving test. It's against the rules to eat during class. He violated the unwritten rule that you must thank your host before you leave a party. If you break the rules, you'll be asked to leave.


The queen ruled for 25 years. A dynasty ruled over this region during the 11th century. Who will be the next leader to rule the country? All of his actions were ruled by his religion. The court ruled in favor of the defendant. The jury ruled against the tobacco companies. How will the court rule on the motion? The Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional. The board ruled that her behavior was cheating.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Coconut Creek spread the wealth at the plate en route to its mercy rule outcome. Rick Menning,, "Plantation, Coconut Creek All-Stars win Little League sectional semifinal games," 14 July 2018 In financial services, the U.K. may be big enough to become a rule setter itself. Stephen Fidler, WSJ, "Trump’s Criticism of May’s Brexit Plan Zeroes In on Trade Reality," 13 July 2018 Income limits and other rules are set by state and federal housing agencies, which oversee municipal public senior housing. Bill Leukhardt, Courant Community, "Waiting List Open For Southington Housing Authority Apartments," 13 July 2018 For drugs to treat diseases such as smallpox, which cannot ethically be tested in people by infecting them on purpose, the FDA has special rules. NBC News, "Now there's a drug to treat smallpox, just in case," 13 July 2018 Human rights monitors say the arrangements amount to a program of political and demographic engineering in Syria to secure Assad's rule. Philip Issa, Fox News, "Syrian rebels agree to give up Daraa, cradle of 2011 revolt," 13 July 2018 They also were supposed to have staff in the recreation area supervising the campers and ensuring rules were being followed. Dave Altimari,, "Family of Two Children Files Lawsuit Against Campground After Alleged Sexual Assault," 12 July 2018 The law recognizes that the pursuit of asylum can sometimes require refugees to breach immigration rules. Alan Gomez, USA TODAY, "Trump administration activates new asylum crackdown; potentially valid claims could be denied," 12 July 2018 The fast pace of developments in the micromobility space only underlines the need for cities to enact rules as soon as possible. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "How cities should regulate the scooter surge," 11 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

On Friday, the judge also ruled on a number of requests by the ACLU to increase oversight of the reunification process. Kristina Davis,, "Trump administration outlines plan to reunify remaining 2,500 separated children," 14 July 2018 Curiel, who was born in Indiana, later ruled in the president's favor. Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY, "Meet the judge who is forcing the government to reunite immigrant families," 13 July 2018 Magistrate Judge Henry Bemporad on Thursday ruled that Uresti doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to afford to pay for his own attorney. Patrick Danner, San Antonio Express-News, "Judge refuses to appoint Uresti’s lawyer of choice for appeal," 12 July 2018 The Wayne County medical examiner's office ruled Ca'Mya's death an accidental drowning and no charges have been filed, according to MLive. Scott Berson, miamiherald, "Baby stayed home with sitters. Then she fell through a hole and drowned, police say," 11 July 2018 Shepherd also ruled the bill was an appropriations bill, and as such, needed a majority of all members in each chamber to vote yes. Tom Loftus, The Courier-Journal, "Judge rejects Gov. Matt Bevin's request to revisit pension ruling," 11 July 2018 Cole County Judge Jon Beetem ruled that the plaintiffs — the Missouri Democratic Party and a World War II veteran from Hartville — lacked the authority to remove Kehoe, who has already been sworn in as lieutenant governor, from office. Bryan Lowry, kansascity, "Judge throws out lawsuit seeking to block Parson from appointing lieutenant governor," 11 July 2018 The commission ruled on July 5 that Delashaw, who was featured in a Seattle Times investigation about Swedish Health’s neuroscience unit, must submit to three years of oversight and cannot be employed in a position of medical leadership. Sandi Doughton, The Seattle Times, "Former Swedish surgeon Johnny Delashaw gets his license back, with restrictions," 10 July 2018 Bay Area & StateSupreme Court won’t rule on SF law aimed at abortions and... Dominic Fracassa,, "Joe Marshall gets another shot at SF Police Commission — needs supes’ OK," 10 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'rule.' 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 rule


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for rule


Middle English reule, from Anglo-French, from Latin regula straightedge, rule, from regere to keep straight, direct — more at right

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Statistics for rule

Last Updated

6 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for rule

The first known use of rule was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for rule



English Language Learners Definition of rule

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a statement that tells you what is or is not allowed in a particular game, situation, etc.

: a statement that tells you what is allowed or what will happen within a particular system (such as a language or science)

: a piece of advice about the best way to do something



English Language Learners Definition of rule (Entry 2 of 2)

: to have control and power over a country, area, group, etc.

: to have great influence over (someone)

: to make a legal decision about something


\ˈrül \

Kids Definition of rule

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a guide or principle for conduct or action To play this game, you need to follow the rules.

2 : an accepted or usual method, custom, or habit “I'm a pretty quiet creature as a rule,” said the horse …— Hugh Lofting, Dr. Dolittle

3 : the exercise of authority or control : government The country was under British rule.


ruled; ruling

Kids Definition of rule (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to exercise authority over : govern

2 : control entry 1 sense 1, direct Don't let emotions rule your decision.

3 : to be supreme or outstanding in He rules the tennis courts.

4 : to give or state as a considered decision The judge ruled that the evidence could not be used.

5 : to mark with lines drawn along the straight edge of a ruler



Legal Definition of rule 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a prescribed guide for conduct or action

b : a regulating principle or precept

2a : an order or directive issued by a court in a particular proceeding especially upon petition of a party to the proceeding that commands an officer or party to perform an act or show cause why an act should not be performed a rule directing the district court to show cause why its ruling should not be vacatedPeople v. District Court, 797 P.2d 1259 (1990)

b : a usually judicially promulgated regulation having the force of law that governs judicial practice or procedure rules of evidence rules of appellate procedure — see also rule of court

c : rule of law sense 1

3 : all or part of a statement (as a regulation) by an administrative agency that has general or particular applicability and future effect and that is designed to implement, interpret, or prescribe law or policy or that describes the organization, procedure, or practice of the agency itself a rule subject to statutory notice and comment requirements for informal rulemaking

4a : a regulation or bylaw governing procedure or conduct in a body, organization, institution, or proceeding

b : a resolution of a legislative rules committee setting forth the terms for consideration of a particular bill by the entire body

5 : the exercise of authority or control majority rule — see also home rule, rule of law sense 2


ruled; ruling

Legal Definition of rule (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to exercise authority or power over

2 : to determine and declare authoritatively especially : to command or determine judicially ruled the evidence inadmissible

intransitive verb

1 : to exercise supreme authority

2 : to lay down a rule or ruling ruled in favor of the plaintiff

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