\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, reg, 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

That wasn’t included into Facebook’s rules and regulations. Eric Johnson, Recode, "Memo from a ‘Facebook nation’ to Mark Zuckerberg: You moved fast and broke our country.," 26 Nov. 2018 Their only recourse is to engineer a white apartheid system similar to how many southern governments operated during Jim Crow, where Black populations were denied the vote while being subjected to the rule of white people. Bree Newsome, SELF, "The 2018 Midterm Elections Proved That Change Must Happen from the Ground Up," 15 Nov. 2018 That said, this barely scratches the surface of the rules and traditions that the royal family must follow. Taylor Mead, House Beautiful, "Will Meghan Markle And Prince Harry’s Baby Be Born At Home? Plus, Other Bizarre Royal Birthing Rules," 15 Oct. 2018 For a full list of voting rules and the toll-free phone numbers to vote by phone, head to Temi Adebowale, Good Housekeeping, "How to Vote for Your Favorite Couple on 'Dancing With the Stars' Tonight," 24 Sep. 2018 The rules and regulations for tinting vary from state to state. Devon Abelman, Allure, "Are Eyelash- and Eyebrow-Tinting Services Safe? Here's Why Some Experts Are Warning Against It," 27 Aug. 2018 Facebook and Instagram removed the video for violating their rules; Twitter left it up, and it has been viewed more than 95,000 times. Casey Newton, The Verge, "The fake video era of US politics has arrived on Twitter," 9 Nov. 2018 Some of the states where voters are enthusiastically casting ballots early recently changed their rules to make early voting easier. Stavros Agorakis, Vox, "The surge in early voting, explained," 3 Nov. 2018 Prosecutors said Robert chafed under his parents’ rules and curfews, and Jeffrey described being yelled at repeatedly by his mother and hit by his father over bad grades. Holly Ramer, The Seattle Times, "Man resentenced to 40 years in parents’ 1996 murder," 30 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The Favourite is based, very loosely, on the story of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), the 18th-century English queen who ruled while her country was at war with France. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "The Favourite director Yorgos Lanthimos on why his films aren’t as mean as people say," 21 Nov. 2018 On the other is Cambodia's Hun Sen, who has ruled his nation with a combination of political guile and brute force for three decades, and comes to New York having won all the seats in an election after outlawing his main political opposition. Matthew Pennington, Fox News, "Malaysia, Cambodia offer 2 Asian narratives of change at UN," 27 Sep. 2018 For Spring 2019, that meant the return of one of modeling’s greats, Shalom Harlow: the elegant Canadian who ruled the runway in the late ’90s and early aughts returned to the runway after a six-year hiatus. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Shalom! Versace Brings Back a ’90s Supermodel," 21 Sep. 2018 Now, many people who might have ruled Sony out and handed Bowers & Wilkins their cash for the excellent, USB-C-powered PX will have to reconsider. Vlad Savov, The Verge, "Wireless headphones are improving faster than anything else in tech," 31 Aug. 2018 This goes back to King George I [who ruled in the early 1700s], and the law’s never been changed. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "When Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Have Children, This Strange Royal Rule Will Make Things Complicated," 21 Aug. 2018 Robert Wodka, 82, and Maryann Wodka, 80, were discovered by their daughter in the basement of their home on Wednesday, both with gunshot wounds to the head, said authorities, who ruled Maryann Wodka’s death a suicide and her husband’s a homicide. Ted Gregory,, "Elderly woman who killed husband, then herself, had 'difficult time caring for him,' police say," 13 July 2018 Mr Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, who rule as a couple, seemed to have hit on a successful formula. The Economist, "Daniel Ortega is causing a bloodbath in Nicaragua," 12 July 2018 The display is laden with symbolism as the government moves to stamp out the last of the uprising against the 52-year-old Assad who has ruled with an iron fist over Syria for 18 years. Washington Post, "Syrian government raises its flag over cradle of 2011 revolt," 12 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

1 Dec 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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More from Merriam-Webster on rule

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with rule

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rule

Spanish Central: Translation of rule

Nglish: Translation of rule for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of rule for Arabic Speakers

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