on principle

Idioms & Phrases

on principle

  1. On moral or ethical grounds. As James Russell Lowell wrote about Alexander Pope in 1871, "There was a time when I could not read Pope, but disliked him on principle." [First half of 1800s]

  2. According to a fixed rule or practice. For example, The police were locking up the demonstrators on principle. [First half of 1800s]

  3. on general principle. For no special reason, in general, as in Dean won't touch broccoli on general principle. [First half of 1800s]

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