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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.