Definition of principate in English:



  • The rule of the early Roman emperors, during which some features of republican government were retained.

    • ‘Piso had been accused of complicity in the death of Germanicus, the heir apparent of Tiberius [emperor 14-37 A.D.], in one of the causes célèbres of the early principate.’
    • ‘Instead of following Caesar's example, however, and making himself dictator, Octavian in 27 BC founded the principate (from princeps, ‘the leading man’), a system of monarchy headed by an emperor holding power for life.’
    • ‘They were also the armies which they and other commanders turned against each other in the civil wars which destroyed the republic and led to the establishment of a principate under Caesar's adopted son, Augustus.’
    • ‘Although Augustus cleverly refused all titles but principate, the Romans did make a god of him after death.’


Late Middle English (denoting a principality): from Latin principatus ‘first place’, from princeps, princip- ‘first, chief’ (see prince). The current sense dates from the mid 19th century.