[ rool ]
See synonyms for: ruleruledrulesruling on

  1. a principle or regulation governing conduct, action, procedure, arrangement, etc.: the rules of chess.

  2. the code of regulations observed by a religious order or congregation: the Franciscan rule.

  1. the customary or normal circumstance, occurrence, manner, practice, quality, etc.: the rule rather than the exception.

  2. control, government, or dominion: under the rule of a dictator.

  3. tenure or conduct of reign or office: during the rule of George III.

  4. a prescribed mathematical method for performing a calculation or solving a problem.

  5. Rule, Astronomy. the constellation Norma.

  6. Printing. a thin, type-high strip of metal, for printing a solid or decorative line or lines.

  7. Law.

    • a formal order or direction made by a court, as for governing the procedure of the court (general rule ) or for sending the case before a referee (special rule ).

    • a legal principle.

    • a court order in a particular case.

  8. rules, Penology. (formerly)

    • a fixed area in the neighborhood of certain prisons within which certain prisoners were allowed to live.

    • the freedom of such an area.

  9. Obsolete. behavior.

verb (used with object),ruled, rul·ing.
  1. to control or direct; exercise dominating power, authority, or influence over; govern: to rule the empire with severity.

  2. to decide or declare judicially or authoritatively; decree: The judge ruled that he should be exiled.

  1. to mark with lines, especially parallel straight lines, with the aid of a ruler or the like: to rule paper.

  2. to mark out or form (a line) by this method: to rule lines on paper.

  3. to be superior or preeminent in (a specific field or group); dominate by superiority; hold sway over: For centuries, England ruled the seas.

verb (used without object),ruled, rul·ing.
  1. to exercise dominating power or influence; predominate.

  2. to exercise authority, dominion, or sovereignty.

  1. to make a formal decision or ruling, as on a point at law.

  2. to be prevalent or current: Higher prices ruled throughout France.

Verb Phrases
  1. rule out,

    • to prove to be unrelated or not for consideration; eliminate; exclude: to rule out the possibility of error.

    • to make impossible or impracticable: The rainstorm ruled out the holiday camping.

Idioms about rule

  1. as a rule, generally; usually: He arrives at eleven o'clock, as a rule.

  2. rule the roost. roost (def. 7).

Origin of rule

First recorded in 1175–1225; (noun) Middle English riule, reule, from Old French riule, from Latin rēgula “straight stick, pattern” (see regula); (verb) Middle English riwlen, reulen, rewellen, from Old French riuler, rieuler, ruler, from Late Latin rēgulāre, derivative of rēgula

synonym study For rule

1. See principle. 13. Rule, administer, command, govern, manage mean to exercise authoritative guidance or direction. Rule implies the exercise of authority as by a sovereign: to rule a kingdom. Administer places emphasis on the planned and orderly procedures used: to administer the finances of an institution. Command suggests military authority and the power to exact obedience; to be in command of: to command a ship. To govern is authoritatively to guide or direct persons or things, especially in the affairs of a large administrative unit: to govern a state. To manage is to conduct affairs, i.e., to guide them in a unified way toward a definite goal, or to direct or control people, often by tact, address, or artifice: to manage a business.

Other words for rule

Other words from rule

  • in·ter·rule, verb (used with object), in·ter·ruled, in·ter·rul·ing.
  • self-rule, noun
  • subrule, noun
  • un·der·rule, noun
  • un·der·rule, verb, un·der·ruled, un·der·rul·ing.
  • un·ruled, adjective
  • well-ruled, adjective

Words Nearby rule Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use rule in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for rule


/ (ruːl) /

  1. an authoritative regulation or direction concerning method or procedure, as for a court of law, legislative body, game, or other human institution or activity: judges' rules; play according to the rules

  2. the exercise of governmental authority or control: the rule of Caesar

  1. the period of time in which a monarch or government has power: his rule lasted 100 days

  2. a customary form or procedure; regular course of action: he made a morning swim his rule

  3. the rule the common order of things; normal condition: violence was the rule rather than the exception

  4. a prescribed method or procedure for solving a mathematical problem, or one constituting part of a computer program, usually expressed in an appropriate formalism

  5. a formal expression of a grammatical regularity in a linguistic description of a language

  6. any of various devices with a straight edge for guiding or measuring; ruler: a carpenter's rule

    • a printed or drawn character in the form of a long thin line

    • another name for dash 1 (def. 13) en rule; em rule

    • a strip of brass or other metal used to print such a line

  7. Christianity a systematic body of prescriptions defining the way of life to be followed by members of a religious order

  8. law an order by a court or judge

  9. as a rule normally or ordinarily

  1. to exercise governing or controlling authority over (a people, political unit, individual, etc): he ruled for 20 years; his passion for her ruled his life

  2. (when tr, often takes a clause as object) to decide authoritatively; decree: the chairman ruled against the proposal

  1. (tr) to mark with straight parallel lines or make one straight line, as with a ruler: to rule a margin

  2. (tr) to restrain or control: to rule one's temper

  3. (intr) to be customary or prevalent: chaos rules in this school

  4. (intr) to be pre-eminent or superior: football rules in the field of sport

  5. (tr) astrology (of a planet) to have a strong affinity with certain human attributes, activities, etc, associated with (one or sometimes two signs of the zodiac): Mars rules Aries

  6. rule the roost or rule the roast to be pre-eminent; be in charge

Origin of rule

C13: from Old French riule, from Latin rēgula a straight edge; see regulate

Derived forms of rule

  • rulable, adjective

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with rule


In addition to the idioms beginning with rule

  • rule of thumb
  • rule out
  • rule the roost

also see:

  • as a rule
  • exception proves the rule
  • ground rules

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