1. Beginning; commencement. "Doubting sad end of principle unsound." (Spenser)

2. A source, or origin; that from which anything proceeds; fundamental substance or energy; primordial substance; ultimate element, or cause. "The soul of man is an active principle." (Tillotson)

3. An original faculty or endowment. "Nature in your principles hath set [benignity]" (Chaucer) "Those active principles whose direct and ultimate object is the communication either of enjoyment or suffering." (Stewart)

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. "Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection." (Heb. Vi. 1) "A good principle, not rightly understood, may prove as hurtful as a bad." (Milton)

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. "All kinds of dishonesty destroy our pretenses to an honest principle of mind." (Law)

6. <chemistry> Any original inherent constituent which characterises a substance, or gives it its essential properties, and which can usually be separated by analysis; applied especially to drugs, plant extracts, etc. "Cathartine is the bitter, purgative principle of senna." (Gregory) Bitter principle, Principle of contradiction, etc. See Bitter, Contradiction, etc.

Origin: F. Principe, L. Principium beginning, foundation, fr. Princeps, -cipis. See Prince.

(01 Mar 1998)