American English

Definition of principle noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1[countable, usually plural, uncountable] a moral rule or a strong belief that influences your actions He has high moral principles. I refuse to lie about it;it's against my principles. Stick to your principles and tell him you won't do it. She refuses to allow her family to help her as a matter of principle. He doesn't invest in the arms industry on principle.
  2. 2[countable] a law, a rule, or a theory that something is based on the principles and practice of writing reports The principle behind it is very simple. There are three fundamental principles of teamwork. Discussing all these details will get us nowhere; we must get back to first principles (= the most basic rules).
  3. 3[countable] a belief that is accepted as a reason for acting or thinking in a particular way the principle that free education should be available for all children
  4. 4[singular] a general or scientific law that explains how something works or why something happens the principle that heat rises A tidal current turbine is similar in principle to a windmill.
  5. Idioms
      in principle
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    1. 1if something can be done in principle, there is no good reason why it should not be done, although it has not yet been done and there may be some difficulties In principle there is nothing that a human can do that a machine might not be able to do one day.
    2. 2in general but not in detail They have agreed to the proposal in principle, but we still have to negotiate the terms.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: principle

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