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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
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Ye Mussulmans, if God chastiseth you for violating the five precepts, how hath he raised up the Franks who ridicule them?

    The Ruins C. F. [Constantin Francois de] Volney
  • All precepts, all religions, are insignificant agencies by their side.

  • I know into what an abyss I plunge myself; but, though prudence bids me conceal my passion, honor overpowers its precepts.

    Love and Intrigue Friedrich Schiller
  • Again what city ever received Plato's or Aristotle's laws, or Socrates' precepts?

    The Praise of Folly Desiderius Erasmus
  • But she was not backward to inquire what are the precepts of duty in her own particular case.

    Ormond, Volume I (of 3) Charles Brockden Brown
  • The legislator must teach these precepts as well as command them.

    Laws Plato
  • A revolt, though it be put down, enlightens slaves more on their power than a thousand years of precepts and examples.

    The Mesmerist's Victim Alexandre Dumas
  • Men know the precepts of religion as a lawyer knows the law.

    The Strolling Saint Raphael Sabatini
  • He is enclosed on all sides by a ring of precepts, which attribute luck or ill-luck to certain things or actions.

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
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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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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