Difference Between Principal and Principle

Main Difference – Principal vs. Principle

Principal and Principle are two homophones that are likely to confuse even native English speakers. Although these two words sound the same, their spellings as well as meanings are different. Principal ends with P-A-L and principle ends with P-L-E. The main difference between Principal and Principle is that principle refers to a rule, law, or general truth whereas principal can refer to several different things. In this article, we are going to look at these different meanings and then summarize the difference between Principal and Principle.

Principal – Meaning and Usage

Principal can be used as a noun as well as an adjective. It is commonly used as an adjective meaning main or primary. For example,

His indifferent attitude was the principal reason for her decision.

It was their principal source of information and they were lost without it.

As a noun, principal can refer to the head of a school or another educational institute. It can also refer to the leading characters of a play, opera or ballet. The head of an organization can also be called a principal.

The students were severely punished by the principal.

The principals in that play were commended by many critics.

Principal can also refer to a sum of money lent or invested, on which interest is paid. Here, principal is always used in singular form.

The bank assured her that there was no risk to her principal.Main Difference - Principal vs Principle

Principle – Meaning and Usage

Principle is always a noun. It can refer to,

A basic rule or a general idea that acts as the basis of a particular theory or system.

Even though he wanted to become an architect, he didn’t  know the basic principles of architecture.

He was the first scientist to research principles of astrology.

He was knowledgeable about the fundamental principles of drawing and sculpting.

A rule or belief about what is right and wrong that governs the manner in which someone behaves. Here, principle should be always used in the plural form.

He sympathized with them, but he wasn’t ready to set aside his principles.

It’s against his principles to discipline children.

Morally correct behavior. Here, principal is used as an uncountable noun.

He was a man of principles and believed in fighting for justice.     

Now that we have looked at the meanings of these two words separately, let us now look at the difference between principal and principle.

Difference Between Principal and Principle

Schematic representation of the principle of lateral continuity

Difference Between Principal and Principle


As a noun, Principal can refer to a head of a school or another organization, leading roles of a stage production. As an adjective, principal can refer to main or primary.

Principle can refer to a rule or a belief about what is right and wrong that governs the manner in which someone behaves or an idea or a concept that acts as the basis of a particular theory or system.

Parts of Speech

Principal is a noun and an adjective.

Principle is a noun.


Principal is generally used in the singular form.

Principle is generally used in the plural form.Difference Between Principal and Principle - INFOGRAPHIC

Image Courtesy:

“Nancy Rousseau – Principal of Central High School – In Her Office – Little Rock – Arkansas – USA” by Adam Jones, Ph.D. – Own work. (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

“Principle of horizontal continuity” by Woudloper – Own work. (Public Domain) via Commons

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