exception that proves the rule

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Derived from the medieval Latin legal principle "exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis" ("the exception tests the rule in the cases not excepted").

  • "Entry is free on Sundays."
    - This implies that entry is not free on the other six days of the week.
  • "Parking prohibited on Sundays."
    - This implies that parking is not prohibited on the other six days of the week.


  • (file)


exception that proves the rule (plural exceptions that prove the rule or exceptions that prove rules)

  1. The rare occurrence of a counterexample to a rule, used to demonstrate that the rule exists.
    • 1688, [anonymous], An Answer to a Paper Importing a Petition of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Six other Bishops to His Majesty[1], London: Henry Hills, page 14:
      A bishop ... is not bound to obey any Mandate but the King's; which Exception proves the Rule, and that he is inexcusably oblig'd to obey the King's
    • 1775, A Gentleman of Lincoln's Inn, A Digest of Adjudged Cases in the Court of King's Bench[2], London: G. Kearsly and G. Robinson, page 85:
      Some statutes give justices of the peace a power of proceeding on default, but the exception proves the rule in the thing not excepted; it seems therefore that the defendant should have been apprehended by a warrant

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