a commandment or direction given as a rule of action or conduct.
an injunction as to moral conduct; maxim.
a procedural directive or rule, as for the performance of some technical operation.
  1. a writ or warrant.
  2. a written order issued pursuant to law, as a sheriff's order for an election.

Origin of precept

1300–50; Middle English < Latin praeceptum piece of advice, rule, noun use of neuter of praeceptus, past participle of praecipere to direct, foresee, literally, to take beforehand, equivalent to prae- pre- + -cep-, combining form of capere to take + -tus past participle suffix
Can be confusedpercept precept

Synonyms for precept Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for precept

Contemporary Examples of precept

Historical Examples of precept

  • But Baxter had no reason to regret the inconsistency of his precept and example.

  • By Precept and Example they ought to be encourag'd to it from their Infancy.

    A Letter to Dion

    Bernard Mandeville

  • This is a matter of precept rather than of law, and cannot be precisely regulated by the legislator.



  • Where precept had failed, Richard found himself converted by example.

    Mistress Wilding

    Rafael Sabatini

  • Sanitation, not the word, but the underlying idea, was taught by precept and example.

    The Negro Farmer

    Carl Kelsey

British Dictionary definitions for precept



a rule or principle for action
a guide or rule for morals; maxim
a direction, esp for a technical operation
  1. a writ or warrant
  2. a written order to a sheriff to arrange an election, the empanelling of a jury, etc
  3. (in England) an order to collect money under a rate

Word Origin for precept

C14: from Latin praeceptum maxim, injunction, from praecipere to admonish, from prae before + capere to take
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 precept

late 14c., from Old French percept, percet (12c.), from Latin praeceptum "maxim, rule of conduct, order," noun use of neuter past participle of praecipere "give rules to, order, advise," literally "take beforehand," from prae "before" (see pre-) + capere (past participle captus) "to take" (see capable). For change of vowel, see biennial.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper