from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A class or category: "This mission is sometimes discussed under the rubric of 'horizontal escalation' . . . from conventional to nuclear war” ( Jack Beatty).
  • n. A title; a name.
  • n. A part of a manuscript or book, such as a title, heading, or initial letter, that appears in decorative red lettering or is otherwise distinguished from the rest of the text.
  • n. A title or heading of a statute or chapter in a code of law.
  • n. Ecclesiastical A direction in a missal, hymnal, or other liturgical book.
  • n. An authoritative rule or direction.
  • n. A short commentary or explanation covering a broad subject.
  • n. Red ocher.
  • adj. Red or reddish.
  • adj. Written in red.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A heading in a book highlighted in red.
  • n. A title of a category or a class.
  • n. An established rule or custom, a guideline.
  • n. A printed set of scoring criteria for evaluating student work and for giving feedback.
  • adj. Coloured or marked with red; placed in rubrics.
  • adj. Of or relating to the rubric or rubrics; rubrical.
  • v. To adorn with red; to redden.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Colored in, or marked with, red; placed in rubrics.
  • adj. Of or pertaining to the rubric or rubrics.
  • n. A titlepage, or part of it, especially that giving the date and place of printing; also, the initial letters, etc., when printed in red.
  • n. The title of a statute; -- so called as being anciently written in red letters.
  • n. The directions and rules for the conduct of service, formerly written or printed in red; hence, also, an ecclesiastical or episcopal injunction; -- usually in the plural.
  • n. Hence, that which is established or settled, as by authority; a thing definitely settled or fixed.
  • transitive v. To adorn ith red; to redden; to rubricate.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Red ocher; red chalk; reddle.
  • n. In old manuscripts and printed books, and still sometimes in the latter, some small part distinguished from the rest of the matter by being written or printed in red, as an initial letter, a title or heading, a liturgical direction, etc.
  • n. Anything of a kind which in manuscripts or books it was formerly customary to put in red, as the title of a subject or division, the heading of a statute, a guiding rule or direction, the first letter of a chapter, etc.
  • n. Specifically A liturgical direction or injunction in an office-book such as a prayer-book, missal, or breviary; a rule prescribed for the conduct of religious worship, or of any part of a religious service, printed in the Roman Catholic, Greek, and sometimes other office-books in red characters; also, collectively, the body of such rules.
  • n. A flourish after a signature; a paraph.
  • Red; of a red or reddish color.
  • Pertaining to rubrics; made the subject of a rubric; rubrical; marked in red characters.
  • To adorn with red; rubricate.
  • To make the subject of a rubric; enjoin observances regarding, as a saint of the calendar.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an authoritative rule of conduct or procedure
  • n. directions for the conduct of Christian church services (often printed in red in a prayer book)
  • n. category name
  • n. a heading that names a statute or legislative bill; may give a brief summary of the matters it deals with
  • n. a title or heading that is printed in red or in a special type
  • v. adorn with ruby red color
  • n. an explanation or definition of an obscure word in a text


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English rubrike, heading, title, from Old French rubrique, from Latin rubrīca, red chalk , from ruber, rubr-, red; see reudh- in Indo-European roots.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Through Old French rubrique, from Latin rubrīca ("red ochre"), the substance used to make red letters, from ruber ("red"), from Proto-Indo-European *reudh-.



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  • It would be nice if we could add a picture of an illuminated manuscript to illustrate the etymology. (Or is it not so much a manuscript but an ancient legal document? Hard to tell ...)

    December 20, 2009

  • A fascinating etymology for an an annoyingly overused word.

    December 20, 2009