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Legal Dictionary

principle

Definition of principle

Etymology

    < Old French principe < Latin principium ("beginning, foundation") < princeps ("first").

Pronunciation

Homophones

Noun

principle (plural principles)

  1. A fundamental assumption.

    We need some sort of principles to reason from.

  2. 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. (generally plural) Moral rule or aspect.

    I don't doubt your principles; you are clearly a person of principle.
    It's the principle of the thing; I won't do business with someone I can't trust.

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

    Bernoulli's principle
    The Pauli Exclusion Principle prevents two fermions from occupying the same state.

    The principle of the internal combustion engine

  5. (somewhat dated) A fundamental essence, particularly one producing a given quality.

    Many believe that life is the result of some vital principle.
    Cathartine is the bitter, purgative principle of senna. - Gregory.

  6. (obsolete) A beginning.

    Doubting sad end of principle unsound. - Spenser.

Usage notes

Principle (moral rule) is often confused with principal (most important.) Consult both definitions if in doubt.

The confused may care to remember that 'The principal alphabetic principle places A before E' as a reminder of the relative spelling.

Synonyms

  • (moral rule or aspect) tenet

Related terms

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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