To clarify a sadly nonsensical Webster 1913 definition, a precept is a rule of personal conduct, like a principle, or a religious rule of behavior, like a doctrine or perhaps a commandment. Essentially, a precept dictates appropriate behavior in a situation. The word derives from the Latin praecipere, to advise or teach.

Unfortunately, according to dictionary.com, Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary of 1996 still has this same entry! Source: http://www.dictionary.com/cgi-bin/dict.pl?term=precept

Pre"cept (?), n. [L. praeceptum, from praecipere to take beforehand, to instruct, teach; prae before + capere to take: cf. F. précepte. See Pre-, and Capacious.]

1.

Any commandment, instruction, or order intended as an authoritative rule of action; esp., a command respecting moral conduct; an injunction; a rule.

For precept must be upon precept.
Isa. xxviii. 10.

No arts are without their precepts.
Dryden.

2. (Law)

A command in writing; a species of writ or process. Burrill.

Syn. -- Commandment; injunction; mandate; law; rule; direction; principle; maxim. See Doctrine.

 

© Webster 1913


Pre"cept, v. t.

To teach by precepts. [Obs.] Bacon.

 

© Webster 1913

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