exception proves the rule, the

Idioms & Phrases

exception proves the rule, the

An instance that does not obey a rule shows that the rule exists. For example, John's much shorter than average but excels at basketballthe exception proves the rule. This seemingly paradoxical phrase is the converse of the older idea that every rule has an exception. [Mid-1600s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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