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OF. example, exemple, a refashioning (after Latin) of earlier essample (see ASAUMPLE):L. exemplum, f. exem-, eximre to take out: see EXEMPT. The primary sense is thus ‘something taken out, a SAMPLE, specimen’. The main English senses are derived from Lat. through French. In the arrangement below the presumed logical order has been adopted in preference to the order in which the senses are recorded in English.

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  • 1. A typical instance; a fact, incident, quotation, etc. that illustrates, or forms a particular case of, a general principle, rule, state of things, etc.; a person or thing that may be taken as an illustration of a certain quality. Phrases, for, by way of, example; formerly also (ellipt.) example in same sense.
b. A problem framed to exemplify a rule in arithmetic, mathematics, etc.; an exercise.
c. A specimen (of workmanship). Also, a ‘copy’ of a book, etc. (now only with reference to rarities).
  • 2. Logic. = Greek (Aristotle). The species of argument in which the major premiss of a syllogism is assumed from a particular instance.
  • 3. A signal instance of punishment intended to have a deterrent effect; a warning, caution; a person whose fate serves as a deterrent to others. Chiefly in phrases, for, in example, to make (a person, etc.) an example, an example of (a person); also, to take example.
  • 4. A parallel case in the past; also in phrases, beyond, without example.
  • 5. A precedent appealed to, to justify or authorize any course of action.
  • 6. A person's action or conduct regarded as an object of imitation; often qualified by adjs. good, bad, evil, etc. Phrases, to give, leave, set an example. Also, a person whose conduct ought to be imitated; a ‘pattern’ of excellence.
b. In generalized sense: Action or conduct that induces imitation; hence, ‘influence that disposes to imitation’ (J.).
c. to take example: to learn by, or copy, the example of another. Const. at, by, of.
d. of (bad) example (= L. mali exempli, Fr. de mauvais exemple). rare.
e. A pattern, design to be copied. Obs. (A mere Latinism.)
  • 7. An alleged designation for a company (of ‘masters’). Obs.0
  • 8. Comb., as example-giver.