Word confusion, part 4

Principal – Principle
This is a tough one which tends to create confusion or worse yet, does not create confusion because people get it wrong and don’t even realize that they do.
Principal has three main meanings/usages:
  • a person who holds a position of high rank, often the head of  school.  “My friend Judy just became principal of Fairview Elementary School.”
  • Sometimes the term is used to refer to people in leading positions in small companies.  Example: “Hi, I am Melinda, a principal of Melinda Miller Consulting.”
  • It also refers to the original amount of a debt on which interest is calculated.  “your principal is $10,000, at 8% your monthly interest payments are $66.67.”

Principal is also an adjective that means primary or main.  “My principal reason for turning down the job was that it didn’t come with a benefit package.”

Principle is a noun which means a basic truth or law, a rule or (ethical) standard.  Examples:  “the principles of democracy”, “he is a man of high principles.”  “He is a vegetarian out of principle not because he doesn’t like meat.”

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