[ prin-suh-puhl ]
/ ˈprɪn sə pəl /


Nearby words

  1. principally,
  2. principate,
  3. principe,
  4. principia,
  5. principium,
  6. principle of complementarity,
  7. principle of economy,
  8. principle of indifference,
  9. principle of least action,
  10. principle of mathematical induction


    in principle, in essence or substance; fundamentally: to accept a plan in principle.
    on principle,
    1. according to personal rules for right conduct; as a matter of moral principle: He refused on principle to agree to the terms of the treaty.
    2. according to a fixed rule, method, or practice: He drank hot milk every night on principle.

Origin of principle

1350–1400; Middle English, alteration of Middle French principe or Latin prīncipium, on the analogy of manciple. See principium

SYNONYMS FOR principle
Can be confusedprincipal principle (see usage note at principal) (see synonym study at the current entry)

Synonym study

1–3. Principle, canon, rule imply something established as a standard or test, for measuring, regulating, or guiding conduct or practice. A principle is a general and fundamental truth that may be used in deciding conduct or choice: to adhere to principle. Canon, originally referring to an edict of the Church (a meaning that it still retains), is used of any principle, law, or critical standard that is officially approved, particularly in aesthetics and scholarship: canons of literary criticism. A rule, usually something adopted or enacted, is often the specific application of a principle: the golden rule.

Usage note Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for in principle


/ (ˈprɪnsɪpəl) /


Christian Science another word for God


/ (ˈprɪnsɪpəl) /


Word Origin for principle

C14: from Latin principium beginning, basic tenet


Principle and principal are often confused: the principal (not principle) reason for his departure; the plan was approved in principle (not in principal)

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

Word Origin and History for in principle


Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for in principle


[ prĭnsə-pəl ]


A basic truth, law, or assumption.
A rule or law concerning the functioning of natural phenomena or mechanical processes.
One of the elements composing a chemical compound, especially one that gives some special quality or effect.
The essential ingredient in a drug.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with in principle

in principle

Fundamentally, in general, but not necessarily in all particulars. For example, The diplomats accepted the idea in principle but would rely on experts to work out all the details. [Early 1800s]


see in principle; on principle.

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