A Precept (from the Latin "præcipere", to teach) is a commandment, instruction, or order intended as an authoritative rule of action.


In religion, precepts are usually commands respecting moral conduct.


The term is encountered frequently in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures; "e.g.":

:"Thou hast commanded thy precepts to be kept diligently. O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping thy statutes!" (Psalm 119(118):4-5, RSV).

The term given in the RSV as "precepts" corresponds with the reading in the Hebrew Bible. The LXX/Septuagint (Samuel Rengster edition) has Greek "entolas", which, too, may be rendered with "precepts". Roman Catholic Canon law, which is based on Roman Law, makes a distinction between "precept" and "law" in Canon 49::"A singular precept is a decree which directly and legitimately enjoins a specific person or persons to do or omit something, especially in order to urge the observance of law."


In Buddhism, the fundamental code of ethics is known as the Five Precepts ("Pañcaśīla" in Sanskrit, or "Pañcasīla" in Pāli), practiced by laypeople, either for a given period of time or for a lifetime. There are other levels of precepts, varying amongst traditions. In Theravadan tradition there are Eight Precepts, Ten Precepts and the Patimokkha. Eight Precepts are a more rigorous practice for laypeople. Ten Precepts are the training-rules for samaneras (male) and samaneris (female), novice monks and nuns. And the Patimokkha is the basic Theravada code of [monastic] discipline, consisting of 227 rules for monks (bhikkhus) and 311 for nuns (bhikkhunis).

ecular law

In secular law, a precept is a command in writing; a species of writ issuing from a court or other legal authority. It is now chiefly used of an order demanding payment. The Latin form "praecipe" ("i.e.", enjoin, command) is used of the note of instructions delivered by a plaintiff or his lawyer to be filed by the officer of the court, giving the names of the plaintiff and defendant.

"this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of man." (v. 13). Isaiah 29:13taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.


Princeton University uses the term precept to describe what many other universities refer to as recitations: large classes are often divided into several smaller discussion sections called precepts, which are led by the professor or graduate teaching assistants. These precepts meet once a week to supplement the lectures and provide a venue for discussion of the course material.


*Article "entolē" in "Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament", H. Balz and G. Schneider (ed.), Edinburgh 1990, Vol. I, p.459-60, which also cites sources for a discussion of the term's distinction from Greek "nomos"/"law".
*" The Code of Canon Law", 1983, in the English translation prepared by the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland []
*The Oxford English Dictionary lists the origen of precept as from the Latin roots of pre-septum. Thus precept is a pre coming-together/closure.

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  • precept — PRECÉPT, precepte, s.n. Formulă, principiu, învăţătură care stă la baza unei doctrine (mai ales morale); normă, regulă de conduită. ♦ Recomandare, sfat, povaţă. Precepte de igienă. [pl. şi: precepturi] – Din fr. précepte, lat. praeceptum. Trimis… …   Dicționar Român

  • precept — I noun axiom, canon, charge, code, command, commandment, decree, dictate, direction, doctrine, dogma, edict, fiat, guide, injunction, instruction, law, legal order, mandate, order, ordinance, praeceptum, praescriptum, prescript, principle,… …   Law dictionary

  • Precept — Pre cept, n. [L. praeceptum, from praecipere to take beforehand, to instruct, teach; prae before + capere to take: cf. F. pr[ e]cepte. See {Pre }, and {Capacious}.] 1. Any commandment, instruction, or order intended as an authoritative rule of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Precept — • Precept, in its common acceptation, is opposed to counsel , inasmuch as the former imposes an obligation, while the latter is a persuasion Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Precept — Pre cept, v. t. To teach by precepts. [Obs.] Bacon. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • precept — (n.) late 14c., from L. praeceptum maxim, rule, order, prop. neuter pp. of praecipere give rules to, order, advise, lit. take beforehand, from prae before (see PRE (Cf. pre )) + capere (pp. captus) to take (see CAPABLE (Cf …   Etymology dictionary

  • precept — prècept m <G mn pātā> DEFINICIJA 1. preporuka što i kako treba raditi u određenom slučaju; savjet, pouka 2. usvojena i određena obveza koja uređuje postupke i odnose u društvu; propis, pravilo 3. ono što se kome naloži, naredi; nalog,… …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • precept — rule, *law, canon, regulation, statute, ordinance Analogous words: *principle, fundamental, axiom: *doctrine, tenet, dogma: injunction, behest, bidding (see COMMAND n) Antonyms: practice: counsel …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • precept — [n] law, rule of behavior, action axiom, behest, bidding, byword, canon, command, commandment, decree, decretum, direction, doctrine, dogma, edict, formula, fundamental, guideline, injunction, instruction, law, mandate, maxim, motto, order,… …   New thesaurus

  • precept — ► NOUN 1) a general rule regulating behaviour or thought. 2) a writ or warrant. 3) Brit. an order issued by one local authority to another specifying the rate of tax to be charged on its behalf. ORIGIN Latin praeceptum something advised …   English terms dictionary

  • precept — [prē′sept΄] n. [ME < L praeceptum < praecipere, to admonish, teach < prae , before (see PRE ) + capere, to take] 1. a commandment or direction meant as a rule of action or conduct 2. a rule of moral conduct; maxim 3. a rule or direction …   English World dictionary

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