Definition of dictum in US English:



  • 1A formal pronouncement from an authoritative source.

    ‘the First Amendment dictum that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech”’
    • ‘The European project's founder Jean Monnet turned this into a dictum for the organisation of the European Union.’
    • ‘This comprehensive compendium of commandments gives you 75 easy-to-follow basic to advanced dictums that have passed the Team FLEX test for accuracy and efficiency.’
    • ‘The last literary personage attempting in all seriousness to formulate rules for fiction was Ayn Rand, her dicta surviving two seasons on the Manhattan literati cocktail circuit.’
    • ‘It may be possible to go further and interpret Lord Browne-Wilkinson's somewhat ambiguous dicta as removing the requirement for a fiduciary relationship altogether.’
    • ‘They point too to dicta of the highest authority indicating that the Secretary of State's discretion is unfettered and that it exists mainly for the benefit of the accused, not the requesting state.’
    • ‘In pursuing the dictums of their scriptures venerating diversity, Hindu civilization is the only civilization which has never attacked any other civilization out of an impulse to convert.’
    • ‘It's a sound principle: U.S. securities markets should operate under national rules, a dictum endorsed by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.’
    • ‘Partly in order to fit with the rest, but mostly due to curiosity or inner need, they gradually question all of the dictums coming from home.’
    • ‘She throws design dictums out of those simply adorned windows in favor of one rule: ‘A house with kids in it should be cheerful and comfortable.’’
    • ‘This dictum has resulted in some members posted ashore being required to complete significant periods at sea, with little certainty of the extent to which they may be used as an operational relief.’
    • ‘Mr Morris emphasised the importance of a consensus between the three parties being reached, rather than a ministerial dictum imposed.’
    • ‘A major component of these magazines' mission was to challenge the prevailing cultural dictums against pleasure of and for the body, including nudity, imagination, and sexuality.’
    • ‘It is speculation to buy contemporary art in the expectation that it will appreciate more than average once the artist is dead, and here the above dictum is wise advice.’
    • ‘Other authors were shackled by two dicta of contemporary thinking among evolutionary biologists, of which Beadle and Emerson were either unaware or unpersuaded.’
    • ‘Our pronouncements to medical students are reinforced by a second dictum: always diagnose the treatable and important, even if it is not the most common or likely explanation for the patient's symptoms.’
    • ‘Apparently, the new dictum in the National Party is that if women members disagree with their leader, they are gone by lunchtime.’
    • ‘The voice of the traditional print critic, uttering lofty dicta from his Victorian armchair, has become both fainter and more shrill.’
    • ‘This book deserves to be widely read, especially among those who have regularly been subjected to Thomas Friedman and company's dictums.’
    • ‘Indeed, they resist inquiries from the unanointed into the bases of their pronouncements and insist on handing their pronouncements down as dicta that may not be questioned.’
    • ‘And you can't even have the sense of rigour because rigour is an authoritarian dictum in itself, which rules out other ways of approaching movement, for example perceiving something with gentleness.’
    pronouncement, proclamation, direction, injunction, assertion, statement
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    1. 1.1 A short statement that expresses a general truth or principle.
      ‘the old dictum “might makes right.”’
      • ‘He transformed the esoteric realm of quantum physics, and along the way discovered anti-matter by applying the dictum that mathematical beauty is a guide to truth.’
      • ‘The truth of the dictum has been demonstrated in history, both ancient and recent, time and again.’
      • ‘As a result, by the eve of World War II, no one seriously questioned the dictum of Gen George Marshall, Army chief of staff, that no democracy could endure a 10-year war.’
      • ‘The old dictum of ‘show, don't tell’ comes to mind here.’
      • ‘In conjunction, increasingly in evidence are the effects predicted by the dictum that all wars are politics by other means.’
      • ‘They quote a dictum of Lord Keynes: ‘In the long run we are all dead.’’
      • ‘This review is only testament to that old over-used dictum: A picture is worth a thousand words.’
      • ‘The authors have taken the ancient dictum to heart: ‘If you can't explain it, describe the hell out of it.’’
      • ‘Anheuser-Busch has reacted in Pattonesque style, emulating the general's dictum that a good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.’
      • ‘What is definite is that this process began outside India, and that the NRI proved over and over again the old dictum that Indians do well everywhere, as long as everywhere does not include India.’
      • ‘It's simply an aspect of Lord Acton's old dictum that ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.’
      • ‘As the old McLuhanesque dictum goes the medium is the message.’
      • ‘Most reminiscent of the '60s, however, is a kitschy utopianism that underwrites all manner of oracular dicta, odd complaints, and questionable advice to the lovelorn.’
      • ‘Yet feminism is regarded by all parties as a philosophy based on Panglossian fortune-cookie dictums.’
      • ‘Mostly he uses his surgeon's instinct to follow the dictum of the great American short story writer Raymond Carver: ‘Get in and get out fast.’’
      • ‘‘Where there is smoke there is fire’, says the old dictum.’
      • ‘Barbauld's revisions constitute a methodical and quite radical intervention in authoritative Johnsonian dicta on novels and their readers.’
      • ‘It was yet another example of the old dictum that racing can be a very cruel sport.’
      • ‘Secretary Rumsfeld invoked Frederick the Great's dictum from General Principles of War: ‘What design would I be forming if I were the enemy?’’
      • ‘For example, the authors accept the dictum that the nineteenth century Church was a ‘young men's Church’ while the twentieth century church is ‘a women's church’.’
      saying, maxim, axiom, proverb, adage, aphorism, saw, precept, epigram, epigraph, motto, truism, platitude, commonplace
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    2. 1.2Law
      short for obiter dictum
      • ‘As I said yesterday, there is the accident compensation legislation, but such dicta as there are are against recovery.’
      • ‘It reversed Judge Newcomer, and noted that federal judges should not take Supreme Court dicta lightly.’
      • ‘However, as differing judicial dicta indicate, the question of how far decisions made by governmental and other administrative bodies should be subject to control by the courts is far from being an uncontroversial one.’
      • ‘These dissenters acknowledged that the Court's prior statements were ‘technically dicta.’’


Late 16th century: from Latin, literally ‘something said’, neuter past participle of dicere.