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[pree-sept] /ˈpri sɛpt/
a commandment or direction given as a rule of action or conduct.
an injunction as to moral conduct; maxim.
a procedural directive or rule, as for the performance of some technical operation.
  1. a writ or warrant.
  2. a written order issued pursuant to law, as a sheriff's order for an election.
Origin of precept
1300-50; Middle English < Latin praeceptum piece of advice, rule, noun use of neuter of praeceptus, past participle of praecipere to direct, foresee, literally, to take beforehand, equivalent to prae- pre- + -cep-, combining form of capere to take + -tus past participle suffix
Can be confused
percept, precept.
1. directive, order, guide, instruction, prescription. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for precepts
  • In the sense that religion calls for action to support the common good, environmentalism's precepts come from religion.
  • Managing public affairs according to precepts stemming from what is studied in academic economics.
  • Instead the regulators should be guided by three precepts.
  • To live according to the precepts of a stringent religion can be difficult.
  • There is no safety around nuke plants, if you understand the precepts in this paragraph.
  • Page continued to set the core precepts of the company.
  • Many of his precepts are no less sound now than they were in his own day.
  • He or she knows only that certain religions have certain precepts about prayer.
  • The ravishing cinematography and simple moral precepts tap universal responses to beauty and truth.
  • To live accord-ing to the precepts of a stringent religion can be difficult.
British Dictionary definitions for precepts


a rule or principle for action
a guide or rule for morals; maxim
a direction, esp for a technical operation
  1. a writ or warrant
  2. a written order to a sheriff to arrange an election, the empanelling of a jury, etc
  3. (in England) an order to collect money under a rate
Word Origin
C14: from Latin praeceptum maxim, injunction, from praecipere to admonish, from prae before + capere to take
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for precepts



late 14c., from Old French percept, percet (12c.), from Latin praeceptum "maxim, rule of conduct, order," noun use of neuter past participle of praecipere "give rules to, order, advise," literally "take beforehand," from prae "before" (see pre-) + capere (past participle captus) "to take" (see capable). For change of vowel, see biennial.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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