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Wordnet 3.0

NOUN (6)

1. a basic generalization that is accepted as true and that can be used as a basis for reasoning or conduct;
- Example: "their principles of composition characterized all their works"
[syn: principle, rule]

2. a rule or standard especially of good behavior;
- Example: "a man of principle"
- Example: "he will not violate his principles"

3. a basic truth or law or assumption;
- Example: "the principles of democracy"

4. a rule or law concerning a natural phenomenon or the function of a complex system;
- Example: "the principle of the conservation of mass"
- Example: "the principle of jet propulsion"
- Example: "the right-hand rule for inductive fields"
[syn: principle, rule]

5. rule of personal conduct;
[syn: principle, precept]

6. (law) an explanation of the fundamental reasons (especially an explanation of the working of some device in terms of laws of nature);
- Example: "the rationale for capital punishment"
- Example: "the principles of internal-combustion engines"
[syn: rationale, principle]


The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:

Principle \Prin"ci*ple\, n. [F. principe, L. principium beginning, foundation, fr. princeps, -cipis. See Prince.] 1. Beginning; commencement. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] Doubting sad end of principle unsound. --Spenser. [1913 Webster] 2. A source, or origin; that from which anything proceeds; fundamental substance or energy; primordial substance; ultimate element, or cause. [1913 Webster] The soul of man is an active principle. --Tillotson. [1913 Webster] 3. An original faculty or endowment. [1913 Webster] Nature in your principles hath set [benignity]. --Chaucer. [1913 Webster] Those active principles whose direct and ultimate object is the communication either of enjoyment or suffering. --Stewart. [1913 Webster] 4. A fundamental truth; a comprehensive law or doctrine, from which others are derived, or on which others are founded; a general truth; an elementary proposition; a maxim; an axiom; a postulate. [1913 Webster] Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection. --Heb. vi. 1. [1913 Webster] A good principle, not rightly understood, may prove as hurtful as a bad. --Milton. [1913 Webster] 5. A settled rule of action; a governing law of conduct; an opinion or belief which exercises a directing influence on the life and behavior; a rule (usually, a right rule) of conduct consistently directing one's actions; as, a person of no principle. [1913 Webster] All kinds of dishonesty destroy our pretenses to an honest principle of mind. --Law. [1913 Webster] 6. (Chem.) Any original inherent constituent which characterizes a substance, or gives it its essential properties, and which can usually be separated by analysis; -- applied especially to drugs, plant extracts, etc. [1913 Webster] Cathartine is the bitter, purgative principle of senna. --Gregory. [1913 Webster] Bitter principle, Principle of contradiction, etc. See under Bitter, Contradiction, etc. [1913 Webster]
The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:

Principle \Prin"ci*ple\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Principled; p. pr. & vb. n. Principling.] To equip with principles; to establish, or fix, in certain principles; to impress with any tenet, or rule of conduct, good or ill. [1913 Webster] Governors should be well principled. --L'Estrange. [1913 Webster] Let an enthusiast be principled that he or his teacher is inspired. --Locke. [1913 Webster] Princock
WordNet (r) 3.0 (2006):

principle n 1: a basic generalization that is accepted as true and that can be used as a basis for reasoning or conduct; "their principles of composition characterized all their works" [syn: principle, rule] 2: a rule or standard especially of good behavior; "a man of principle"; "he will not violate his principles" 3: a basic truth or law or assumption; "the principles of democracy" 4: a rule or law concerning a natural phenomenon or the function of a complex system; "the principle of the conservation of mass"; "the principle of jet propulsion"; "the right-hand rule for inductive fields" [syn: principle, rule] 5: rule of personal conduct [syn: principle, precept] 6: (law) an explanation of the fundamental reasons (especially an explanation of the working of some device in terms of laws of nature); "the rationale for capital punishment"; "the principles of internal-combustion engines" [syn: rationale, principle]
Moby Thesaurus II by Grady Ward, 1.0:

204 Moby Thesaurus words for "principle": Procrustean law, a belief, a priori truth, activity, ambition, antecedents, article of faith, aspiration, at bottom, attitude, axiom, base, basement, basically, basis, bearing wall, bed, bedding, bedrock, belief, brocard, call, calling, campaign, canon, causation, cause, cause and effect, center, code, commandment, commitment, conscience, consideration, convention, core, credo, creed, criterion, crusade, determinant, determinative, dictate, dictum, doctrine, dogma, drive, element, elements, elixir, essence, essential, essentially, ethic, etiology, factor, faith, floor, flooring, flower, focus, fond, footing, form, formality, formula, formulary, foundation, fundament, fundamental, fundamentally, fundamentals, general principle, gist, given, goal, golden rule, grammar, gravamen, great cause, ground, grounds, groundwork, guide, guideline, guiding light, guiding principle, guiding star, hardpan, heart, honesty, hypostasis, idea, ideal, ideally, imperative, in essence, in theory, inner essence, inspiration, integrity, intention, interest, issue, kernel, law, law of nature, lifework, lodestar, mainspring, marrow, mass movement, matter, maxim, meat, mitzvah, model, moral, morality, morals, motive, movement, norm, norma, notion, nub, nucleus, nuts and bolts, occasion, order of nature, ordinance, pavement, philosophy, pith, point of view, postulate, precept, prescribed form, prescription, principium, principles, probity, proposition, quid, quiddity, quintessence, radical, reason, reason for being, regulation, riprap, rock bottom, rubric, rudiment, rudiments, rule, sake, sap, score, seat, self-evident truth, sentiment, set form, settled principle, sill, solid ground, solid rock, soul, source, spirit, spring, standard, standing order, stereobate, stimulus, stuff, stylobate, substance, substratum, substruction, substructure, teaching, tenet, terra firma, the nitty-gritty, theorem, theoretically, truism, truth, ulterior motive, underbuilding, undercarriage, undergirding, underpinning, understruction, understructure, universal law, universal truth, uprightness, usage, viewpoint, vocation, working principle, working rule
Bouvier's Law Dictionary, Revised 6th Ed (1856):

PRINCIPLES. By this term is understood truths or propositions so clear that they cannot be proved nor contradicted, unless by propositions which are still clearer. They are of two kinds, one when the principle is universal, and these are known as axioms or maxims; as, no one can transmit rights which he has not; the accessory follows the principal, &c. The other class are simply called first principles. These principles have known marks by which they may always be recognized. These are, 1. That they are so clear that they cannot be proved by anterior and more manifest truths. 2, That they are almost universally received. 3. That they are so strongly impressed on our minds that we conform ourselves to them, whatever may be our avowed opinions. 2. First principles have their source in the sentiment of our own existence, and that which is in the nature of things. A principle of law is a rule or axiom which is founded in the nature of the subject, and it exists before it is expressed in the form of a rule. Domat, Lois Civiles, liv. prel. t. 1, s. 2 Toull. tit. prel. n. 17. The right to defend one's self, continues as long as an unjust attack, was a principle before it was ever decides by a court, so that a court does Dot establish but recognize principles of law. 3. In physics, by principle is understood that which constitutes the essence of a body, or its constituent parts. 8 T. R. 107. See 2 H. Bl. 478. Taken in this sense, a principle cannot be patented; but when by the principle of a machine is meant the modus operandi, the peculiar device or manner of producing any given effect, the application of the principle may be patented. 1 Mason, 470; 1 Gallis, 478; Fessend. on Pat. 130; Phil. on Pat. 95, 101; Perpigna, Manuel des Inventeurs, &c., c. 2, s. 1.