‘Principal' vs 'Principle': What's the Difference Between the Two?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on December 17, 2022

Is the head of your school your ‘principal’ or ‘principle’? And what’s the difference between these words? We’ll cover that in this article, plus you’ll learn how to use both in a sentence correctly.

The short answer is that ‘principal’ means main or primary, but it also could mean the principal of a school.

‘Principle’ is a noun that means a rule, tenet, or basic truth. It can be used as both a noun and an adjective.

‘Principle’ vs. ‘Principal’ – Learn the Difference

So, you just learned that the difference between ‘principle’ and ‘principal’ is that the former means a rule, tenet, or basic truth, and the latter means ‘main’ or ‘primary.’

‘Principal’ vs. ‘Principle’ – The Rules on the Difference

These two words are not interchangeable. They're homophones, which means they sound the same but mean two totally different things.

It can be tricky trying to remember which one is which, but remember that ‘principle’ and ‘rule’ end in the same letters. Also, if you think about the ‘principal’ as your pal, that can help you remember too.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Principal’ 

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘principal’ is: “most important, consequential, or influential: chief” and “of, relating to, or constituting principal or a principal.”

As a noun, it means: “a person who has controlling authority or is in a leading position: such as a chief or head man or woman, the chief executive officer of an educational institution, one who engages another to act as an agent subject to general control and instruction (specifically the person from whom an agent’s authority derives, the chief or an actual participant in a crime, the person primarily or ultimately liable on a legal obligation, or a leading performer: star,” “a matter or thing of primary importance,” “a capital sum earning interest, due as debt, or used as a fund,” “the corpus of an estate, portion, devise, or bequest,” “the construction that gives shape and strength to a roof and is usually one of several trusses,” and “broadly: the most important member of a piece of framing.”

A few synonyms of the word include:


  • Arch
  • Cardinal
  • Big
  • Central
  • Capital
  • Chief
  • Highest
  • Grand
  • Great
  • Number one
  • Overbearing
  • Predominant


  • Headliner
  • Lead
  • Star

Definition and Meaning of ‘Principle’

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘principle’ is: “a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption,” “a rule or code of conduct,” “habitual devotion to right principles,” “the laws or facts of nature underlying the working of an artificial device,” “a primary source: origin,” “an underlying faculty or endowment,” “an ingredient (such as a chemical) that exhibits or imparts a characteristic quality,” “a divine principle: god.”

Synonyms of the word include:

  • ABC(s)
  • Elements
  • Grammar
  • Alphabet
  • Essentials
  • Rudiments
  • Basics
  • Fundamentals

How to Use ‘Principal’ in a Sentence 

Now that we know what both words mean let’s see how to use them in a sentence correctly. We’ll start with ‘principal.’ Take a look at some examples.

  • The principal came to visit our kindergarten class this morning.
  • The principal wasn’t at school today. The superintendent had to fill in.
  • It turns out my principal is a trainer at my local gym. Guess he’s moonlighting.
  • He was the principal investigator on the case.
  • I’ve hired a principal accounting officer. He should be here any second.
  • Mr. Halston was the principal dancer in his local ballet theater’s rendition of The Nutcracker.

How to Use ‘Principle’ in a Sentence 

Now, let’s see some examples of how to use ‘principle’ correctly in a sentence.

  • It’s the principle that matters. The other details are irrelevant.
  • You’re a man of principle who always keeps his word.
  • There are a few principles of human rights that need to be addressed.
  • Have you ever considered the principle of the matter?
  • The principles of this organization must be followed if you’re going to work here.

Concluding Thoughts on ‘Principal’ and ‘Principle’

Now that we know what both words mean, you can confidently use them in your writing. If you ever get stuck and forget, just remember the rules: the ‘principal’ is your pal, and the ‘principle’ and rule both end in ‘le.’

If that doesn’t stick in your head, just bookmark this page and come back whenever you need to. We’ve also got a ton of other content on confusing words and phrases. Go check out our library.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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