What does principle mean?

Definitions for principle
ˈprɪn sə pəlprin·ci·ple

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word principle.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. principle, rulenoun

    a basic generalization that is accepted as true and that can be used as a basis for reasoning or conduct

    "their principles of composition characterized all their works"

  2. principlenoun

    a rule or standard especially of good behavior

    "a man of principle"; "he will not violate his principles"

  3. principlenoun

    a basic truth or law or assumption

    "the principles of democracy"

  4. principle, rulenoun

    a rule or law concerning a natural phenomenon or the function of a complex system

    "the principle of the conservation of mass"; "the principle of jet propulsion"; "the right-hand rule for inductive fields"

  5. principle, preceptnoun

    rule of personal conduct

  6. rationale, principlenoun

    (law) an explanation of the fundamental reasons (especially an explanation of the working of some device in terms of laws of nature)

    "the rationale for capital punishment"; "the principles of internal-combustion engines"


  1. principlenoun

    A fundamental assumption.

    We need some sort of principles to reason from.

  2. principlenoun

    A rule used to choose among solutions to a problem.

    The principle of least privilege holds that a process should only receive the permissions it needs.

  3. principlenoun

    Moral rule or aspect.

  4. principlenoun

    A rule or law of nature, or the basic idea on how the laws of nature are applied.

  5. principlenoun

    A fundamental essence, particularly one producing a given quality.

  6. principlenoun

    A beginning.

    Doubting sad end of principle unsound. uE000115793uE001 Spenser.

  7. Etymology: From principe, from principium, from princeps; see prince.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. Principlenoun

    Etymology: principium, Lat. principe, Fr.

    Modern philosophers suppose matter to be one simple principle, or solid extension diversified by its various shapes. Isaac Watts.

    Some few, whose lamp shone brighter, have been led,
    From cause to cause to nature’s secret head,
    And found that one first principle must be. Dryden.

    For the performance of this, a vital or directive principle seemeth to be assistant to the corporeal. Nehemiah Grew, Cosmol.

    The soul of man is an active principle, and will be employed one way or other. John Tillotson, Sermons.

    Touching the law of reason, there are in it some things which stand as principles universally agreed upon; and out of those principles, which are in themselves evident, the greatest moral duties we owe towards God or man, may, without any great difficulty, be concluded. Richard Hooker.

    All of them may be called principles, when compared with a thousand other judgments, which we form under the regulation of these primary propositions. Isaac Watts, Logick.

    Farewel, young lords; these warlike principles
    Do not throw from you. William Shakespeare.

    As no principle of vanity led me first to write it, so much less does any such motive induce me now to publish it. William Wake.

    There would be but small improvements in the world, were there not some common principle of action, working equally with all men. Joseph Addison, Spectator, №. 255.

    I’ll try
    If yet I can subdue those stubborn principles
    Of faith, of honour. Joseph Addison, Cato.

    A feather shooting from another’s head,
    Extracts his brain, and principle is fled. Alexander Pope.

  2. To Principleverb

    Etymology: from the noun.

    Wisest and best men full oft beguil’d,
    With goodness principl’d not to reject
    The penitent, but ever to forgive,
    Are drawn to wear out miserable days. John Milton.

    It is the concern of his majesty, and the peace of his government, that the youth be principled with a thorough persuasion of the justness of the old king’s cause. South.

    There are so many young persons, upon the well and ill principling of whom next under God, depends the happiness or misery of this church and state. Robert South, Sermons.

    Governors should be well principled and good-natured. Roger L'Estrange.

    Men have been principled with an opinion, that they must not consult reason in things of religion. John Locke.

    Let an enthusiast be principled, that he or his teacher is inspired, and you in vain bring the evidence of clear reasons against his doctrine. John Locke.

    He seems a settled and principled philosopher, thanking fortune for the tranquility he has by her aversion. Alexander Pope, to Swift.

    The promiscuous reading of the bible is far from being of any advantage to children, either for the perfecting their reading, or principling their religion. John Locke.


  1. Principle

    A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule that has to be or usually is to be followed, or can be desirably followed, or is an inevitable consequence of something, such as the laws observed in nature or the way that a system is constructed. The principles of such a system are understood by its users as the essential characteristics of the system, or reflecting system's designed purpose, and the effective operation or use of which would be impossible if any one of the principles was to be ignored. A system may be explicitly based on and implemented from a document of principles as was done in IBM's 360/370 Principles of Operation. Examples of principles are, entropy in a number of fields, least action in physics, those in descriptive comprehensive and fundamental law: doctrines or assumptions forming normative rules of conduct, separation of church and state in statecraft, the central dogma of molecular biology, fairness in ethics, etc. In common English, it is a substantive and collective term referring to rule governance, the absence of which, being "unprincipled", is considered a character defect. It may also be used to declare that a reality has diverged from some ideal or norm as when something is said to be true only "in principle" but not in fact.


  1. principle

    A principle is a fundamental truth, law, doctrine, or motivating force, upon which others are based. It serves as a basis for behavior, belief or reasoning, typically established as universally accepted or inherently necessary in a specific field, idea, or system. Principles are the foundational concepts that guide decision making, actions and help in determining right from wrong.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Principlenoun

    beginning; commencement

  2. Principlenoun

    a source, or origin; that from which anything proceeds; fundamental substance or energy; primordial substance; ultimate element, or cause

  3. Principlenoun

    an original faculty or endowment

  4. Principlenoun

    a fundamental truth; a comprehensive law or doctrine, from which others are derived, or on which others are founded; a general truth; an elementary proposition; a maxim; an axiom; a postulate

  5. Principlenoun

    a settled rule of action; a governing law of conduct; an opinion or belief which exercises a directing influence on the life and behavior; a rule (usually, a right rule) of conduct consistently directing one's actions; as, a person of no principle

  6. Principlenoun

    any original inherent constituent which characterizes a substance, or gives it its essential properties, and which can usually be separated by analysis; -- applied especially to drugs, plant extracts, etc

  7. Principleverb

    to equip with principles; to establish, or fix, in certain principles; to impress with any tenet, or rule of conduct, good or ill

  8. Etymology: [F. principe, L. principium beginning, foundation, fr. princeps, -cipis. See Prince.]


  1. Principle

    A principle is a law or rule that has to be, or usually is to be followed, or can be desirably followed, or is an inevitable consequence of something, such as the laws observed in nature or the way that a system is constructed. The principles of such a system are understood by its users as the essential characteristics of the system, or reflecting system's designed purpose, and the effective operation or use of which would be impossible if any one of the principles was to be ignored. Examples of principles: ⁕a descriptive comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption, ⁕a normative rule or code of conduct, ⁕a law or fact of nature underlying the working of an artificial device.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Principle

    prin′si-pl, n. a fundamental truth on which others are founded or from which they spring: a law or doctrine from which others are derived: an original faculty of the mind: a settled rule of action: (chem.) a constituent part: (obs.) a beginning.—v.t. to establish in principles: to impress with a doctrine.—adj. Prin′cipled, holding certain principles.—Principle of contradiction, the logical principle that a thing cannot both be and not be; Principle of excluded middle (logic), the principle that a thing must be either one thing or its contradictory; Principle of sufficient reason (see Reason).—First principle, a very general principle not deducible from others. [L. principium, beginning—princeps.]

The Roycroft Dictionary

  1. principle

    1. Bait. 2. A formula for doing a thing that, unformulated, would land the doer in jail. (Must not be confused with the word _principal_. Both words are used correctly in the following sentence: One may live one's life without principle, but not without principal. Or, again, Principle is sometimes principal; but principal has no principle. Or, The principal was never paid on principle.)

Editors Contribution

  1. principle

    A perfect universal truth or law.

    The universe has some basic principles e.g. we are all from the same creator.

    Submitted by MaryC on December 31, 2019  

  2. principle

    A person, business, company, enterprise, organization, unity assembly, unity council, unity legislature, unity senate, unity government, house of representatives, local unity government, regional unity government, national unity government, european unity government or international unity government with the official obligation or contract to provide a service, commodities, goods or products.

    The principle contractor provided a portion of the services, a portion are subcontracted to other service providers.

    Submitted by MaryC on March 28, 2020  

  3. principle

    A rule of personal conduct.

    They were a couple of principles which they valued and respected together.

    Submitted by MaryC on December 31, 2019  

Suggested Resources

  1. Principle

    Principle vs. Principal -- In this Grammar.com article you will learn the differences between the words Principle and Principal.

  2. Principle

    Principal vs. Principle -- In this Grammar.com article you will learn the differences between the words Principal and Principle.

British National Corpus

  1. Spoken Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'principle' in Spoken Corpus Frequency: #1242

  2. Written Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'principle' in Written Corpus Frequency: #1908

  3. Nouns Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'principle' in Nouns Frequency: #303

How to pronounce principle?

How to say principle in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of principle in Chaldean Numerology is: 9

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of principle in Pythagorean Numerology is: 3

Examples of principle in a Sentence

  1. Rafael Grossi:

    Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated, what is at stake is extremely serious and extremely grave and dangerous.

  2. Gary Frost:

    We are working with partners to get evidence to make a food ingredient claim, this small, proof-of-principle study shows encouraging signs that supplementing one's diet with the ingredient we've developed prevents weight gain in overweight people.

  3. Jameel Jaffer:

    This case stands for a principle that is fundamental to our democracy : government officials can't suppress speech simply because they disagree with its message.

  4. Tom Perez:

    On July 2, 1964, President Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act. Its enactment, following the longest continuous debate in the history of the U.S. Senate, enshrined into law the basic principle upon which our country was founded - that all people are created equal.

  5. Charles Krauthammer:

    We don't rely entirely on documents because you need to know the context, you need to know what was in the mind of the person referred to, they had over two years to interview and talk to anybody involved including the highest officials who were never excluded from interrogation in principle, but who were never spoken to, and then they end up releasing every single report without any of that.

Popularity rank by frequency of use


Translations for principle

From our Multilingual Translation Dictionary

Get even more translations for principle »


Find a translation for the principle definition in other languages:

Select another language:

  • - Select -
  • 简体中文 (Chinese - Simplified)
  • 繁體中文 (Chinese - Traditional)
  • Español (Spanish)
  • Esperanto (Esperanto)
  • 日本語 (Japanese)
  • Português (Portuguese)
  • Deutsch (German)
  • العربية (Arabic)
  • Français (French)
  • Русский (Russian)
  • ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)
  • 한국어 (Korean)
  • עברית (Hebrew)
  • Gaeilge (Irish)
  • Українська (Ukrainian)
  • اردو (Urdu)
  • Magyar (Hungarian)
  • मानक हिन्दी (Hindi)
  • Indonesia (Indonesian)
  • Italiano (Italian)
  • தமிழ் (Tamil)
  • Türkçe (Turkish)
  • తెలుగు (Telugu)
  • ภาษาไทย (Thai)
  • Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
  • Čeština (Czech)
  • Polski (Polish)
  • Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
  • Românește (Romanian)
  • Nederlands (Dutch)
  • Ελληνικά (Greek)
  • Latinum (Latin)
  • Svenska (Swedish)
  • Dansk (Danish)
  • Suomi (Finnish)
  • فارسی (Persian)
  • ייִדיש (Yiddish)
  • հայերեն (Armenian)
  • Norsk (Norwegian)
  • English (English)

Word of the Day

Would you like us to send you a FREE new word definition delivered to your inbox daily?

Please enter your email address:


Use the citation below to add this definition to your bibliography:


"principle." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 28 Feb. 2024. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/principle>.

Discuss these principle definitions with the community:

1 Comment
  • Nurjed  Ngava
    Nurjed Ngava
    principles and theories.
    LikeReply 28 years ago
    • STANDS4
      Thank you Nurjed Ngava for sharing our definition with your friends! Have a great day and looking forward to seeing you again soon.
      LikeReply8 years ago

Are we missing a good definition for principle? Don't keep it to yourself...

Image or illustration of


Credit »

Free, no signup required:

Add to Chrome

Get instant definitions for any word that hits you anywhere on the web!

Free, no signup required:

Add to Firefox

Get instant definitions for any word that hits you anywhere on the web!

Browse Definitions.net


Are you a words master?

greatly exceeding bounds of reason or moderation
  • A. ostensive
  • B. usurious
  • C. motile
  • D. numinous

Nearby & related entries:

Alternative searches for principle: