\ 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

Most Exciting Bank,’ says his workplace rules (no suits allowed, for instance) are meant to energize Berkshire Hills’ 1,900 employees. Christina Rexrode, WSJ, "Meet the CEO of ‘America’s Most Exciting Bank’—at Least as He’s Branded It," 13 July 2018 Media: Wochit Exxon's departure comes amid a corporate exodus by the likes of Ford Motor Co. and Expedia Group Inc. departed, largely in response to ALEC's positions on climate rules, renewable energy and other issues. Kevin Crowley And Ari Natter, Houston Chronicle, "Exxon quits Koch-backed business group after climate change disagreement," 13 July 2018 Trump can blame a NATO spending rule for all this, but the real failure lies closer to home—with his own preference for military showmanship over bread and butter programs that are already par for the course in Europe. Lindsay Koshgarian, Fortune, "Trump’s Complaints About NATO Defense Spending Don’t Add Up," 12 July 2018 The conviction rested heavily on the NAB’s unusual rules, in which the defendant is assumed guilty unless proven otherwise. The Economist, "Pakistan’s former prime minister embraces jail to rally his party," 12 July 2018 But tech alone can’t solve an issue, especially by barging into a space filled with existing rules, stakeholders, regulations, and community considerations. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "How cities should regulate the scooter surge," 11 July 2018 Those rules, which require women in Saudi Arabia to get permission from male guardians for a range of activities, have been eased somewhat but have not been fully revoked. Jamie L. Lareau, Detroit Free Press, "Ford Mustang is 'dream car' gift for Saudi Arabian woman," 11 July 2018 In terms of the most popular dance/electronic albums of 2018, thus far, The Chainsmokers rule with three out of the top four positions, including No. 1: Memories… Do Not Open. Keith Caulfield, Billboard, "Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey's 'The Middle' Dominates Nielsen Music's Mid-Year 2018 Dance/Electronic Charts," 11 July 2018 Competition will be offered for eight one-design classes — J/22, Cal 25, Alerion 28, Harbor 20, J/70, J/80, J/105, and J/30 — while handicap divisions will sail under the ORC rating rule., "Recreation and outdoors calendar (July 15)," 14 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Demonstrators have gathered daily in front of the court, while across town, the country’s Constitutional Tribunal—a panel of judges who rule on whether laws are constitutional—is also in disarray. Drew Hinshaw, WSJ, "Poland Steps Up Supreme Court Purge," 13 July 2018 By the time the word began to fizzle out in England, America didn’t have much of a choice, given that football was by then established as the thing that rules Sundays. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "Sorry, England: the USA is right to call football 'soccer'," 12 July 2018 Kavanaugh was part of a three-judge panel on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals that ruled largely in favor of PHH in October 2016. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Consumer advocacy groups are extremely worried about Brett Kavanaugh," 11 July 2018 As a water sign ruled by the moon, Cancer has long been known as an intuitive, caring, and maybe at times moody, sign., "This Month’s New Moon Will Have All Of Us In Our Feelings," 9 July 2018 This period haunt brings the legend of Sleepy Hollow to life, turning the historic Philipsburg Manor into a village ruled by the Headless Horseman. Sienna Fantozzi, House Beautiful, "The Best Things To Do In Sleepy Hollow On Halloween," 9 July 2018 As noted by Kloczkowski, Amazon and other online sales alternatives have cut deeply into a space once ruled by brick and mortar, but Linehan said Gurnee remains in good shape due to its strong commercial tax base. Jim Newton, Lake County News-Sun, "Gurnee Mills outlot in 'highly important' location springs back to life," 2 July 2018 While every team dreams of being ruled by King James, only a few have a legit chance of signing him. CBS News, "LeBron James arrives in L.A. hours before he becomes a free agent," 30 June 2018 Cottons: The Secret of the Wind hits bookstores next week, introducing readers to an epic tale of a post-industrial (and post-human) world ruled by animals, and the struggle between species for survival. Graeme Mcmillan, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Cottons: The Secret of The Wind' Trailer Shows a World Ruled by Animals," 27 June 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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Learn More about rule

Statistics for rule

Last Updated

8 Sep 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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Comments on rule

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


alleviating pain or harshness

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