Definition of precept in US English:



  • 1A general rule intended to regulate behavior or thought.

    ‘the legal precept of being innocent until proven guilty’
    ‘children learn far more by example than by precept’
    ‘moral precepts’
    • ‘He was a theologian with well-defined critiques of secularism and unhealthy laxity of behavior on moral precepts.’
    • ‘But this does not mean that the Prince is amoral; it merely indicates that he was honest enough to face the difficulty of adjusting political behaviour to moral precepts.’
    • ‘Very few of them received an Arnoldian education though they would have imbibed the same moral precepts.’
    • ‘The five precepts are the nearest rules to the Ten Commandments.’
    • ‘Within these rules or precepts are five which are undertaken by all those trying to adhere to a Buddhist way of life.’
    • ‘These intuitionist approaches, whether at the level of specific precepts or general principles, are not only theoretically unsatisfying, but are also quite unhelpful in practical matters.’
    • ‘It then promotes this into a moral precept for life in general.’
    • ‘For example, Albert the Great remarked that the more general a precept is, the more properly it may be said to belong to the natural law.’
    • ‘To sum up, we can say that the form of the moral law as a categorical imperative is the personal command of God and that the general precepts of this law constitute the content of his will.’
    • ‘Elder initiated men also instruct them in moral precepts and beliefs.’
    • ‘The general structural and moral precepts around which these relationships are constituted are evident at certain stages of beer drinks.’
    • ‘It can also mean a precept, rule, principle, maxim, formula or method.’
    • ‘Too many attitudes will have become ingrained, too many old moral precepts will have disappeared.’
    • ‘Moreover, religious moral precepts designate legal from illegal, right from wrong, in society.’
    • ‘But though they mistook his observations of human behaviour for universal precepts, he must take some of the blame.’
    • ‘Now, we can certainly discuss whether the criteria I use to determine which behavior or set of precepts is more moral than another are reasonable or unreasonable criteria.’
    • ‘Then the aspirant has her head shaved and takes her first set of precepts, 10 training rules.’
    • ‘It involves rules and precepts - the do's and don'ts of life with others - as well as explicit instructions, exhortations, and training.’
    • ‘Thundering with divine authority and flowing with moral clarity, these precepts function as a mirror to show where humankind stands on the highest standard of moral and ethical behaviour.’
    • ‘Candidates were to demonstrate in their lives the precepts of the Golden Rule.’
    principle, rule, tenet, canon, code, doctrine, guideline, working principle, law, ordinance, statute, command, order, decree, mandate, dictate, dictum, directive, direction, instruction, injunction, prescription, commandment
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  • 2A writ or warrant.

    ‘the Commissioner issued precepts requiring the companies to provide information’
    • ‘‘I do not think the electorate will wear very large precepts from police authorities any more than they would wear very large precepts from local authorities,’ he said.’


Late Middle English: from Latin praeceptum, neuter past participle of praecipere ‘warn, instruct’, from prae ‘before’ + capere ‘take’.