- 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.
- according to a fixed rule, method, or practice: He drank hot milk every night on principle.
Origin of principle
Synonyms for principle
Word Origin for principle
late 14c., "origin, source, beginning; rule of conduct; axiom, basic assumption; elemental aspect of a craft or discipline," from Anglo-French principle, Old French principe "origin, cause, principle," from Latin principium (plural principia) "a beginning, commencement, origin, first part," in plural "foundation, elements," from princeps (see prince). Used absolutely for (good or moral) principle from 1650s.
It is often easier to fight for principles than to live up to them. [Adlai Stevenson, speech, New York City, Aug. 27, 1952]
Scientific sense of "general law of nature" is recorded from 1802. The English -l- apparently is by analogy of participle, etc.
On moral or ethical grounds. As James Russell Lowell wrote about Alexander Pope in 1871, “There was a time when I could not read Pope, but disliked him on principle.” [First half of 1800s]
According to a fixed rule or practice. For example, The police were locking up the demonstrators on principle. [First half of 1800s]
on general principle. For no special reason, in general, as in Dean won't touch broccoli on general principle. [First half of 1800s]
see in principle; on principle.