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a principle or regulation governing conduct, action, procedure, arrangement, etc.:
the rules of chess.
the code of regulations observed by a religious order or congregation:
the Franciscan rule.
the customary or normal circumstance, occurrence, manner, practice, quality, etc.:
the rule rather than the exception.
control, government, or dominion:
under the rule of a dictator.
tenure or conduct of reign or office:
during the rule of George III.
a prescribed mathematical method for performing a calculation or solving a problem.
(def 2).
(initial capital letter) Astronomy. the constellation Norma.
Printing. a thin, type-high strip of metal, for printing a solid or decorative line or lines.

a formal order or direction made by a court, as for governing the procedure of the court (general rule) or for sending the case before a referee (special rule)
a legal principle.
a court order in a particular case.

rules, Penology.

a fixed area in the neighborhood of certain prisons within which certain prisoners were allowed to live.
the freedom of such an area.

Obsolete, .
to control or direct; exercise dominating power, authority, or influence over; govern:
to rule the empire with severity.
to decide or declare judicially or authoritatively; decree:
The judge ruled that he should be exiled.
to mark with lines, especially parallel straight lines, with the aid of a or the like:
to rule paper.
to mark out or form (a line) by this method:
to rule lines on paper.
to be superior or preeminent in (a specific field or group); dominate by superiority; hold sway over:
For centuries, England ruled the seas.
to exercise dominating power or influence; predominate.
to exercise authority, dominion, or sovereignty.
to make a formal decision or , as on a point at law.
to be prevalent or current:
Higher prices ruled throughout France.
rule out,

to prove to be unrelated or not for consideration; eliminate; exclude:
to rule out the possibility of error.
to make impossible or impracticable:
The rainstorm ruled out the holiday camping.

as a rule, generally; usually:
He arrives at eleven o’clock, as a rule.
rule the roost. (def 6).
Contemporary Examples

With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk.
Best Moments From Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address (VIDEO) The Daily Beast Video January 24, 2012

The pope does not have power to tell the judges how to rule, but he can intervene at any time to pardon the defendants.
Vatileaks: Trial of Pope’s Butler Cloaked in Secrecy Barbie Latza Nadeau September 27, 2012

It seeks the rule of law and accountability, not the rule of a supreme leader or a divinely-chosen Imam.
Egypt’s President Mubarak Plays With Fire Bruce Riedel February 9, 2011

As I am liberal in my politics, sir, I am likewise pretty liberal with this rule.
Forget Bipartisan Golf, Obama, and Play Against Me Michael Tomasky May 25, 2014

“It really feels like a rule from yesterday, full of prejudice,” Schmidt says.
Activists Fight Antiquated Policy With National Gay Blood Drive Janelle Dumalaon July 10, 2014

Historical Examples

The real center, however, will be in the middle of the wood of which the rule is composed.
Boys’ Book of Model Boats Raymond Francis Yates

“There was one rule in poker your pa had,” said Uncle Peter.
The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson

As a rule, he accompanies his master to all dinner-parties to assist in waiting.
Life and sport in China Oliver G. Ready

It decrees that we, the people, elect leaders not to rule but to serve.
United States Presidents’ Inaugural Speeches Various

The worst days of Mr. Failing’s rule seemed to be returning.
The Longest Journey E. M. Forster

an authoritative regulation or direction concerning method or procedure, as for a court of law, legislative body, game, or other human institution or activity: judges’ rules, play according to the rules
the exercise of governmental authority or control: the rule of Caesar
the period of time in which a monarch or government has power: his rule lasted 100 days
a customary form or procedure; regular course of action: he made a morning swim his rule
the rule, the common order of things; normal condition: violence was the rule rather than the exception
a prescribed method or procedure for solving a mathematical problem, or one constituting part of a computer program, usually expressed in an appropriate formalism
a formal expression of a grammatical regularity in a linguistic description of a language
any of various devices with a straight edge for guiding or measuring; ruler: a carpenter’s rule

a printed or drawn character in the form of a long thin line
another name for dash1 (sense 13) en rule, em rule
a strip of brass or other metal used to print such a line

(Christianity) a systematic body of prescriptions defining the way of life to be followed by members of a religious order
(law) an order by a court or judge
as a rule, normally or ordinarily
to exercise governing or controlling authority over (a people, political unit, individual, etc): he ruled for 20 years, his passion for her ruled his life
(when transitive, often takes a clause as object) to decide authoritatively; decree: the chairman ruled against the proposal
(transitive) to mark with straight parallel lines or make one straight line, as with a ruler: to rule a margin
(transitive) to restrain or control: to rule one’s temper
(intransitive) to be customary or prevalent: chaos rules in this school
(intransitive) to be pre-eminent or superior: football rules in the field of sport
(transitive) (astrology) (of a planet) to have a strong affinity with certain human attributes, activities, etc, associated with (one or sometimes two signs of the zodiac): Mars rules Aries
rule the roost, rule the roast, to be pre-eminent; be in charge

c.1200, “principle or maxim governing conduct, formula to which conduct must be conformed” from Old French riule, Norman reule “rule, custom, (religious) order” (in Modern French partially re-Latinized as règle), from Vulgar Latin *regula, from Latin regula “straight stick, bar, ruler;” figuratively “a pattern, a model,” related to regere “to rule, straighten, guide” (see regal). Replaced Old English wealdan.

Meaning “regulation governing play of a game, etc.” is from 1690s. Phrase rule of thumb first attested 1690s. Rule of law “supremacy of impartial and well-defined laws to any individual’s power” is from 1883. Meaning “strip used for making straight lines or measuring” is recorded from mid-14c. Typography sense is attested from 1680s.

c.1200, “to control, guide, direct,” from Old French riuler “impose rule,” from Latin regulare (see regulate). Legal sense “establish by decision” is recorded from early 15c. Meaning “mark with lines” is from 1590s. Meaning “to dominate, prevail” is from 1874. “Rule Brittania,” patriotic song, is from 1740. Related: Ruled; ruling.

rule (rōōl)

A usual, customary, or generalized course of action or behavior.

A generalized statement that describes what is true in most or all cases; a standard.


To dominate; to be the most important: Girls rule!

rule of thumb
rule out
rule the roost

also see:

as a rule
exception proves the rule
ground rules


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