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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 precept
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • They are mostly in the form of precept and command, as was only likely, since they were intended for the guidance of conduct.

  • Ham was an apt scholar, and improved upon the precept and example of his father.

    Down The River Oliver Optic
  • By example and precept we were trained from infancy in this manner of speech.

    The Syrian Christ Abraham Mitrie Rihbany
  • It is in obedience to the precept of Horace that I have begun by plunging in media res.

    Columba Prosper Merimee
  • The most perfect way of satisfying the precept is to attend Office in choir.

    The Priestly Vocation Bishop Bernard Ward
  • He has followed your precept, Madam; I hope you accept his conclusions.

    The Professor at the Breakfast Table Oliver Wendell Holmes (Sr.)
British Dictionary definitions for precept


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
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for precept

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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