Meaning of PRINCIPLE in English


I. ˈprin(t)səpəl, -səbəl also -inzp- or -in(t)sp- noun

( -s )

Etymology: Middle English, modification of Middle French principe, from Latin principium beginning, origin, basis (in plural principia, first principles, fundamentals), from princip-, princeps first, original, literally, taken as first, from prin- (from primus first) + -cip-, -ceps (from Latin capere to take) — more at prime , heave


a. : a general or fundamental truth : a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption on which others are based or from which others are derived : elementary proposition

the principles of physics


(1) : a governing law of conduct : an opinion, attitude, or belief that exercises a directing influence on the life and behavior : rule or code of usually good conduct by which one directs one's life or actions

a man of no principle

the honorable principles to which my father reared me

(2) : devotion to what is right and honorable especially as a trait of character


(1) : natural law or laws applied to achieve a purpose or produce a result by an artificial device (as a mechanical-contrivance) : the laws or facts of nature underlying and exemplified in the working of an artificial device

the principle of the internal-combustion engine

(2) : the mode of construction or working of an artificial device


a. : something from which another thing takes its origin : a basic or primary source of material or energy : ultimate basis or cause

the ancients recognized opposed governing principles as of heat and cold, moisture and dryness

b. : an original faculty or endowment : underlying or basic quality that motivates behavior or other activities

such principles of human nature as greed and curiosity

c. obsolete : original state : commencement , beginning

3. obsolete

a. principles plural : rudiments

b. : seed , embryo

4. : a component part : constituent: as

a. archaic : element 1a, 1b

b. : a distinguishable ingredient that exhibits or imparts a characteristic quality

the bark contains a bitter principle used in medicine

the active principle of this drug

5. capitalized , Christian Science : a divine principle : god

the triune Principle of Life, Truth, and Love


principle , axiom , fundamental , law , and theorem can mean, in common, a proposition or other formulation stating a fact, or a generalization accepted as true and basic. principle applies to any generalization that provides a basis for reasoning or a guide for conduct or procedure

the principle of free speech

his remarkable grasp of principle in the remaining field, that of historical geography — Benjamin Farrington

the same hankering as their pious ancestors for a cozy universe, a closed system of certainties erected upon a single principle — H.J.Muller

the principle was established that no officer or employee … was entitled to any classified information whatever unless it was necessary for the performance of his duties — J.P.Baxter b.1893

I do not mean to assert this pedantically as an absolute rule, but as a principle guiding school authorities — Bertrand Russell

axiom in an older sense applies to a principle not open to dispute because self-evident, usually one upon which a structure of reasoning is or may be erected; in more common current usage it implies a principle universally accepted or regarded as worthy of acceptance rather than one necessarily true

the journalistic axiom that there is nothing as dead as yesterday's newspaper — G.W.Johnson

one of the axioms of United States business is that efficiency is increased by specialization — Time

fundamental usually applies to a principle, but sometimes a fact, so essential to a philosophy, religion, science, or art that its rejection would destroy the intellectual structure resting upon it

the fundamentals of scientific research

the fundamentals of Christian belief

the simple economics fundamental that mechanization is the secret of America's greatness — advt

law in this comparison applies to a formulation stating an order or relation of phenomena which is regarded as always holding good

the conquest of nature's procreative forces, through the discovery of the laws of agriculture and animal husbandry — R.W.Murray

the laws of the rain and of the seasons here are tropic laws — Marjory S. Douglas

it is a law that no two electrons may occupy the same orbit — A.S.Eddington

theorem applies to a proposition that admits of rational proof and, usu., is logically necessary to succeeding logical steps in a structure of reasoning

theoretical economics puts the patterns of uniformity in a coherent system [of which] the basic propositions are called assumptions or postulates, the derived propositions are called theorems — Oscar Lange

the error that was to prove most durable of all, the theorem that only a very short land traverse would be found necessary from Missouri to Pacific waters — Bernard DeVoto

- in principle

II. transitive verb

( -ed/-ing/-s )

archaic : to instill principles into : ground or fix in a principle : incite or move as an animating principle

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.