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Middle English rubrike red ocher, heading in red letters of part of a book, from Anglo-French, from Latin rubrica, from rubr-, ruber red


b (1) : name, title; specifically : the title of a statute (2) : something under which a thing is classed : category <the sensations falling under the general rubric, “pressure” — F. A. Geldard>
c : an explanatory or introductory commentary : gloss; specifically : an editorial interpolation
  • 2: a heading of a part of a book or manuscript done or underlined in a color (as red) different from the rest
  • 3: an established rule, tradition, or custom
  • 4: a guide listing specific criteria for grading or scoring academic papers, projects, or tests


A rubric is a word or section of text which is traditionally written or printed in red ink to highlight it. The word derives from the Latin: rubrica, meaning red ochre or red chalk, and originates in Medieval illuminated manuscripts from the 13th century or earlier. In these, red letters were used to highlight initial capitals (particularly of psalms), section headings and names of religious significance, a practice known as rubrication, which was a separate stage in the production of a manuscript.

Rubric can also mean the red ink or paint used to make rubrics, or the pigment used to make it. Although red was most often used, other colors came into use from the late Middle Ages onwards, and the word rubric was used for these also.[1]