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rule (n.)

c. 1200, "principle or maxim governing conduct, formula to which conduct must be conformed" from Old French riule, Norman reule "rule, custom, (religious) order" (in Modern French partially re-Latinized as règle), from Vulgar Latin *regula, from Latin regula "straight stick, bar, ruler;" figuratively "a pattern, a model," related to regere "to rule, straighten, guide" (from PIE root *reg- "move in a straight line," with derivatives meaning "to direct in a straight line," thus "to lead, rule").

By mid-14c. as "control, government, sway, dominion." The meaning "regulation governing play of a game, etc." is from 1690s; the phrase rules of the game is by 1787. To bend the rules "interpret leniently, overlook infringement" is by 1680s.

The meaning "strip with a straight edge used for making straight lines or measuring" is from mid-14c. Typography sense of "thin strip cut type-high and used for printing continuous lines" is attested from 1680s. Rule of law "supremacy of impartial and well-defined laws to any individual's power" is from 1883. Rule of the road in reference to the fixed customs, formerly much varying from country to country, which regulate the sides to be taken by vehicles in passing each other, is by 1805.

The rule of the road is a paradox quite,
In driving your carriage along,
If you keep to the left you are sure to go right,
If you keep to the right you go wrong.
[Horne Tooke, "Diversions of Purley," 1805]

rule (v.)

c. 1200, "to control, guide, direct, make conform to a pattern," from Old French riuler "impose rule," from Latin regulare "to control by rule, direct," from Latin regula "rule, straight piece of wood," from PIE root *reg- "move in a straight line," with derivatives meaning "to direct in a straight line," thus "to lead, rule."

The legal sense "establish by decision, lay down authoritatively" is recorded from early 15c. The meaning "mark with parallel straight lines" (with or as with the aid of a ruler) is from 1590s. The slang intransitive sense of "dominate all" is by 1975. "Rule Britannia," patriotic song, is from 1740. Related: Ruled; ruling.

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Definitions of rule from WordNet
1
rule (n.)
a principle or condition that customarily governs behavior;
it was his rule to take a walk before breakfast
Synonyms: regulation
rule (n.)
something regarded as a normative example;
violence is the rule not the exception
Synonyms: convention / normal / pattern / formula
rule (n.)
prescribed guide for conduct or action;
Synonyms: prescript
rule (n.)
(linguistics) a rule describing (or prescribing) a linguistic practice;
Synonyms: linguistic rule
rule (n.)
a basic generalization that is accepted as true and that can be used as a basis for reasoning or conduct;
Synonyms: principle
rule (n.)
the duration of a monarch's or government's power;
during the rule of Elizabeth
rule (n.)
dominance or power through legal authority;
the rule of Caesar
Synonyms: dominion
rule (n.)
directions that define the way a game or sport is to be conducted;
he knew the rules of chess
rule (n.)
any one of a systematic body of regulations defining the way of life of members of a religious order;
the rule of St. Dominic
rule (n.)
a rule or law concerning a natural phenomenon or the function of a complex system;
the right-hand rule for inductive fields
Synonyms: principle
rule (n.)
(mathematics) a standard procedure for solving a class of mathematical problems;
he determined the upper bound with Descartes' rule of signs
Synonyms: formula
rule (n.)
measuring stick consisting of a strip of wood or metal or plastic with a straight edge that is used for drawing straight lines and measuring lengths;
Synonyms: ruler
2
rule (v.)
exercise authority over; as of nations;
Synonyms: govern
rule (v.)
decide with authority;
Synonyms: decree
rule (v.)
be larger in number, quantity, power, status or importance;
rule (v.)
decide on and make a declaration about;
Synonyms: find
rule (v.)
have an affinity with; of signs of the zodiac;
rule (v.)
mark or draw with a ruler;
rule the margins
rule (v.)
keep in check;
rule one's temper
Synonyms: harness / rein
From wordnet.princeton.edu