The words principal and principle are often confused by English speakers. Read this lesson to learn the principles of the principal meanings.
As a noun, principal can be a person, such as the head of a school or other organization, or the primary participant in a crime.
I got sent to the principal’s office.
Our company’s principals meet once a month.
Have they arrested the principal in the assassination plot?
Principal can also refer to the original sum of money that has been invested.
The interest isn’t enough to live on, I have to start withdrawing from the principal.
As an adjective, principal means "primary" or "most important":
Gambia’s principal export is peanuts.
Who is the principal dancer?
Principle is an inanimate noun that refers to natural or man-made laws and rules.
1. Rule of conduct, whether moral or institutional
I live by a single principle: be kind.
Honesty is one of the founding principles of our company.
He is a man of principle.
2. Fundamental quality or idea, essence
Can you teach me the principles of quantum physics?
The principles behind this machinery are fascinating.
It’s a good idea, in principle.
The Bottom Line
Despite their similar pronunciation, principal and principle are completely different. Principal is an adjective, a person, or a sum of money, while principle is an idea. In principle, if you’re talking about someting intangible, the word you need is principle. Otherwise, your pal is principal.
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