Principle vs. Principal: How Are They Different? 

by Arushi Gupta
principle vs principal

Principle vs. principal are among the ranks of  ’week vs. weak‘, ‘affect vs. effect‘, ‘allusion vs. illusion‘, and the countless other confusing words in English. But as is the case with these other examples, once you know the difference, these confusing word pairs are easy to tell apart. 

Let’s dive into the article and see how principle vs. principal are different from each other.  

Principle definition

The word principle is a noun that refers to a fundamental truth, a moral or ethical rule, or a law that serves as a basis for behavior or decision-making. It refers to a basic theorem or a fundamental concept in a particular field of study.

For example,  

  • Honesty is a principle that I always try to uphold. 

Principal definition

The word principal is a noun that refers to a person who holds a high-ranking position in an institution, such as a school, college or company. It can also refer to the main sum of money that is owed or invested, excluding any interest or additional charges.

For example, 

  • The school principal greeted the students in the morning. 
  • The customer had not paid the bank the principal amount of the loan.

When to use principle vs. principal

Use principle when you want to refer to a rule, a truth or a concept, and use principal when you want to refer to a person, a sum of money or a main item. 

Use of principal as a noun

As a noun, principal is used to refer to a person who holds a high-ranking position in an institution, such as a school, college or company. For example, 

  • The school principal is responsible for maintaining discipline in the premises.
Common writing errors in academic writing

Use of principal as an adjective

As an adjective, principal is used to describe something that is the most important or the main thing. For example,  

  • The principal objective of the company is to increase its profits. 

Principle vs. principal examples

Here are a few examples to help you answer the questions ‘what does principle mean‘ or ‘what does principal mean’: 

  • The principle of non-violence is the cornerstone of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy. 
  • The school principal is the highest authority in the school. 
  • The principle of gravity states that objects fall towards the earth. 
  • The principal sum of money owed on the loan is $10,000. 

Mnemonics to remember principle vs. principal

Someone who is a “princi-P-A-L” should be looked at as your “pal,” whereas “princi-P-L-E” refers to truths, rules, or standards. A truth or standard cannot be your “pal.” 

That’s it for the differences between principle vs. principal! We hope that mastering the meanings of the two words will help you avoid embarrassing mix-ups and elevate your writing to the next level.  

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