AskDefine | Define rubric

Dictionary Definition



1 an authoritative rule of conduct or procedure
2 an explanation or definition of an obscure word in a text [syn: gloss]
3 directions for the conduct of Christian church services (often printed in red in a prayer book)
4 a heading that names a statute or legislative bill; may give a brief summary of the matters it deals with; "Title 8 provided federal help for schools" [syn: title, statute title]
5 a title or heading that is printed in red or in a special type
6 category name; "it is usually discussed under the rubric of `functional obesity'" v : adorn with ruby red color

User Contributed Dictionary



Through Old French from Latin rubrica (red ochre), the substance used to make red letters.


  • /ˈɹuːbɹɪk/, /"ru:brIk/


  1. a heading in a book highlighted in red
  2. an established rule or custom, a guideline
  3. a category or classification
    • That would fall under the rubric of things we can ignore for now.
  4. a printed set of scoring criteria for evaluating student work and for giving feedback

Related terms


a heading in a book highlighted in red
an established rule or custom, a guideline
a category or classification
a printed set of scoring criteria

Extensive Definition

A rubric is a word or section of text which is written or printed in red ink to highlight it. The term derives from the lang-la rubrica, meaning red ochre or red chalk, and originates in Medieval illuminated manuscripts from the 13th century or earlier. In these, red letters were used to highlight initial capitals (particularly of psalms), section headings and names of religious significance, a practice known as rubrication, which was a separate stage in the production of a manuscript.
Rubric can also mean the red ink or paint used to make rubrics, or the pigment used to make it. Although red was most often used, other colours came into use from the late Middle Ages onwards, and the word rubric was used for these also.


Instructions for a priest explaining what he had to do during a liturgical service were also rubricated in missals and the other forms of service book, leaving the sections to be spoken aloud in black. From this, rubric has a second meaning of an instruction in a text, regardless of how it is written or printed. This is in fact the oldest recorded meaning in English, found in 1375. Less formally, rubrics may refer to any liturgical action customarily performed over the course of a service, whether or not they are actually written down.
The history, status and authority of the content of rubrics is a matter of significance, and sometimes controversy, among scholars of liturgy. In the past, some theologians attempted to distinguish between those rubrics they considered to be of divine origin, and those merely of human origin. Rubrics were probably originally verbal, and then written down in separate volumes. The earliest service books to survive do not contain them, but from references in writings of the first millennium it appears that written versions existed. Full rubrics covering matters such as the vestments to be worn, the appearance of the altar, when to hold particular services and similar matters may still be published separately. In modern service books like the Roman Missal, lengthy general rubrics (probably printed in the normal black) cover such issues, and preface the actual orders of service, which contain shorter basic rubrics for the conduct of the service, still usually in printed in red. Red is also often used to distinguish between words to be spoken by the celebrant and the congregation, or by other specific people involved in a service (people being married for example).

After printing

External Links

rubric in Czech: Rubrika
rubric in Danish: Rubrik
rubric in German: Rubrik
rubric in Dutch: Rubriek (handschrift)
rubric in Polish: Rubryk
rubric in Swedish: Rubrik

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Sefer Torah, Torah, Torah scroll, Virginal, abbreviation, abbreviature, abrege, abridgment, abstract, act, appellation, appellative, banner, banner head, basis, bill, blood, bracket, branch, breviary, brief, burden, bylaw, canon, capsule, caption, case, caste, category, chapter, church book, clan, class, code, cognomen, commandment, compend, concern, condensation, condensed version, conspectus, convention, decree, denomination, designation, dictate, dictation, dictum, digest, division, draft, drop head, dropline, edict, enactment, epigraph, epitome, essence, estate, euchologion, euchology, farse, focus of attention, focus of interest, form, formality, formula, formulary, general principle, gist, golden rule, grade, group, grouping, guideline, guiding principle, hanger, head, heading, headline, imperative, incarnadine, institution, issue, jump head, jus, kin, label, law, lectionary, legend, legislation, level, lex, litany, living issue, machzor, main point, manual, matter, matter in hand, maxim, measure, meat, memorable, missal, mitzvah, moral, motif, motive, motto, nomen, norm, notable, observable, order, ordinal, ordinance, ordonnance, outline, overline, overview, pandect, pigeonhole, point, point at issue, point in question, pontifical, position, prayer book, precis, predicament, prescript, prescription, principium, principle, problem, question, race, rank, rating, red-letter, regulation, review, ritual, rituale, rubify, ruby, ruddle, ruddy, rule, ruling, running head, running title, scarehead, screamer, section, sept, service book, set, settled principle, shortened version, siddur, skeleton, sketch, spread, spreadhead, standard, standing order, station, status, statute, strain, stratum, streamer, style, subdivision, subgroup, subhead, subheading, subject, subject matter, subject of thought, suborder, substance, subtitle, superscription, survey, syllabus, synopsis, tenet, text, theme, thumbnail sketch, title, title page, topic, topical outline, working principle, working rule
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