Principal vs. Principle

Principal means "primary" or "chief" — like the principal of a school — while principle generally refers to a rule, law, or general truth. Principle is always used as a noun; principal is usually used as an adjective but can also be a noun. "Principal" and "principle" are homophones.

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Meaning Adjective - Main; Primary; First; Most important in a group. Noun (pronominal) - Chief (head person); First or main amount (money). Noun - A rule; a law or a law of nature; a fundamental assumption; a moral rule; the main way of doing something.
Part of speech Usually Adjective. Sometimes stands as a Noun (as in the Principal [of a school]). Noun (only).
Synonyms Chief, main, premier, leading, first. Rule, Axiom, Precept, Doctrine, Moral.
Antonyms Unimportant, Trivial, Secondary, Auxiliary. An exception; oddity; irrelevance.
Usage (Marked/Unmarked) Most used (the normal or unmarked word). Specific (the more specific word, the unusual or marked word).

edit Summary

Principal (adjective or noun) conveys the meaning of "primary" or "chief" - like [as adjective] e.g. the principal aim of a series of tasks,or [as noun] the principal of a school. It is also used as the chief part of a loan (i.e., not the interest), as in apply the extra $50 in this month's mortgage payment toward the principal.

Principle (noun) is a rule, law or general truth. The principles of mathematics

These words are sources of confusion for even well-versed minds. Some phrases that can help you remember the difference are:

Some writers focus on the distinction that principles can be used in the plural, but principal is usually used only in the singular form. This strategy, when used as a quick rule, often leads to errors. The plural "principals" is appropriate when writing about several individuals, who each have a primary role, whose position of primacy does not conflict with another's similar position. For example,

This video clearly explains the difference between principle and principal:

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Principle noun

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Comments: Principal vs Principle

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Anonymous comments (3)

March 18, 2009, 6:43pm

The primary amount owed on a loan is Principal (not Principle)

— 24.✗.✗.112

March 13, 2009, 3:03pm

"Principle" is also the correct spelling for the primary amount owed on a loan, although from your definition, one might believe this is "principal." This definition of "principle" is not included in your definitions at all.

— 69.✗.✗.213

January 5, 2012, 6:22pm

Principle can also be an adjective, as in "a principled man," or "a principled approach."

— 99.✗.✗.115


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