a basic truth or assumption The Commission has always followed the principle that the public interest is best served when regulatory affairs are open to the fullest extent possible.
something in principle is possible, although it has not yet been tried or finalised The parties have reached an agreement in principle.
a basic rule or belief about what is morally correct behaviour The reasons why torture is wrong can be divided into reasons of pure principle and reasons based on the bad consequences of torture.
- Principal and principle are often confused as they have the same pronunciation, but have different meanings. Principle which means doctrine, standard, rule, or law, is nearly always a noun: A principle of management is to treat your employees as you want them to treat your customers.
- On the other hand, principal which means primary, chief, or most important, is both a noun and an adjective, though usually an adjective in non-legal usage: A faulty gasket was the principal reason for the engine's failure.
- In general usage, principal refers to a person who plays an important role or holds a high position. In legal and financial English, however, principal is often a noun (from principal person). In the law of agency, the principal is the one on whose behalf the agent acts: She attended the meeting as the agent of a principal who wished to remain anonymous.
- In banking the principal (sum) is money invested or borrowed on which interest is paid: The borrower was only able to make the minimum payment, which covered the interest but did not reduce the principal.