from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A rule or principle prescribing a particular course of action or conduct.
  • noun Law A direction or order issued by an authority; a writ, command, or process.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A commandment or direction given as a rule of action; teaching; instruction; especially, an injunction as to moral conduct; a rule of conduct; a maxim.
  • noun In law: A command or mandate in writing issued by a court or judge, as for bringing a person, record, or other matter before him, or for the collection of costs, etc., or for summoning jurors, etc.
  • noun In English law, a command or mandate in writing issued pursuant to law by an administrative officer: as, a sheriff's precept for a municipal election.
  • To teach; lead by precept.
  • To order by rule; ordain.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Any commandment, instruction, or order intended as an authoritative rule of action; esp., a command respecting moral conduct; an injunction; a rule.
  • noun (Law) A command in writing; a species of writ or process.
  • transitive verb obsolete To teach by precepts.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A rule or principle, especially one governing personal conduct.
  • noun law A written command, especially a demand for payment.
  • verb obsolete To teach by precepts.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun rule of personal conduct
  • noun a doctrine that is taught


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin praeceptum, from neuter past participle of praecipere, to advise, teach : prae-, pre- + capere, to take; see kap- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Vulgar Latin praeceptum, form of praecipere ("to teach"), from Latin prae ("pre-") + capere ("take").


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  • One cannot decide that this Church precept is false this one true, that that one is empty and useless and that one is meaningful.

    True or False? « So Many Books 2004

  • In ecclesiastical jurisprudence, the word precept is used:

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 12: Philip II-Reuss 1840-1916 1913

  • A positive precept is right because it is commanded, and ceases to be obligatory when abrogated; a moral precept is commanded eternally, because it is eternally right.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible 1871

  • Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary -- This precept is frequently repeated along with the prohibition of idolatrous practices, and here it stands closely connected with the superstitions forbidden in the previous verses.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible 1871

  • The precept is very weighty. seemeth to have -- or, "thinketh that he hath" (Margin).

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible 1871

  • The doctor was sent for, who, very sick himself, and holding by the table to keep himself from falling, told her, without looking at her very particularly, that there was nothing the matter, only to keep yourself "quite quiet and still;" and the ship rolling at the same moment, he pitched head-foremost out of the cabin, showing practically how much easier precept is than example.

    Life in Mexico, During a Residence of Two Years in That Country Frances Erskine Inglis 1843

  • The precept is quoted from Prov.xxv. 21, 22; so that, high as it seems to be, the Old Testament was not a stranger to it.

    Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume VI (Acts to Revelation) 1721

  • The precept is threefold, ask, seek, knock; there is precept upon precept; but the promise is sixfold, line upon line, for our encouragement; because a firm belief of the promise would make us cheerful and constant in our obedience.

    Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume V (Matthew to John) 1721

  • Now the precept is directed to heaven and earth, and all the hosts of both, as royal precepts commonly run -- To all officers, civil and military.

    Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume IV (Isaiah to Malachi) 1721

  • And this entitles the precept, _Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself_, to the pre-eminence given to it, and is a justification of the apostle's assertion, that all other commandments are comprehended in it, whatever cautions and restrictions {28} there are, which might require to be considered, if we were to state particularly and at length what is virtue and right behaviour in mankind.

    Human Nature and Other Sermons Joseph Butler 1722


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  • "Example is more powerful than precept."

    Aesop (620 BC-560 BC)

    February 1, 2007