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rule of thumb

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noun
  1. a general or approximate principle, procedure, or rule based on experience or practice, as opposed to a specific, scientific calculation or estimate.
  2. a rough, practical method of procedure.

Origin of rule of thumb

First recorded in 1685–95
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for rule of thumb

Historical Examples

  • He worked on no rule-of-thumb method as so many of his comrades did.

    The Law-Breakers

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • One thing was certain—that they couldn't be solved by a rule-of-thumb morality.

    A Far Country, Complete

    Winston Churchill

  • All the power of his intelligence, all the rule-of-thumb derived from his practice, is devoted to this alone.

  • Accurate knowledge is a good thing, but rule-of-thumb experience is often thought to be better.

  • It is servility to rule-of-thumb criteria, and a dullness of perception, a timidity in acceptance.

    Instigations

    Ezra Pound


British Dictionary definitions for rule of thumb

rule of thumb

noun
    1. a rough and practical approach, based on experience, rather than a scientific or precise one based on theory
    2. (as modifier)a rule-of-thumb decision
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

rule of thumb in Culture

rule of thumb

A practical principle that comes from the wisdom of experience and is usually but not always valid: “When playing baseball, a good rule of thumb is to put your best hitter fourth in the batting order.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with rule of thumb

rule of thumb

A rough and useful principle or method, based on experience rather than precisely accurate measures. For example, His work with the youth group is largely by rule of thumb. This expression alludes to making rough estimates of measurements by using one's thumb. [Second half of 1600s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.