Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin praeceptum, from neuter of praeceptus, past participle of praecipere to take beforehand, instruct, from prae- + capere to take before
- 1: a command or principle intended especially as a general rule of action
- 2: an order issued by legally constituted authority to a subordinate official
A precept (from the Latin: præcipere, to teach) is a commandment, instruction, or order intended as an authoritative rule of action.
In Buddhism, the fundamental code of ethics is known as the Five Precepts (Pañcaśīla in Sanskrit, or Pañcasīla in Pāli), practiced by laypeople, either for a given period of time or for a lifetime. There are other levels of precepts, varying amongst traditions. In Theravadan tradition there are Eight Precepts, Ten Precepts and the Patimokkha. Eight Precepts are a more rigorous practice for laypeople. Ten Precepts are the training-rules for samaneras (male) and samaneris (female), novice monks and nuns. And the Patimokkha is the basic Theravada code of [monastic] discipline, consisting of 227 rules for monks (bhikkhus) and 311 for nuns (bhikkhunis).