Is there a word that means "the state of obeying a rule".

I'm thinking since it can be said that something 'adheres' to a rule that 'adherent' would fit the bill, but somehow it doesn't sound quite right.

For example "It adheres to the rule." -> "It is adherent." or "Does it adhere to the rule." -> "Yes, it is adherent."

Is is correct or acceptable to use the word 'adherent' in such a manner?

  • You can say 'It is adherent to the rule', but simply saying 'It is adherent' seems to me like a non sequitur.
    – Anonym
    Mar 29, 2014 at 3:03
  • 3
    It complies with the rule; it is compliant.
    – toandfro
    Mar 29, 2014 at 3:59
  • Compliant as toandfro suggested; rule-bound though correct, is now also used in a negative sense of being overly tied down by rules.
    – Kris
    Mar 29, 2014 at 6:29
  • It either fits the rule, or it does not.
    – tchrist
    Mar 30, 2014 at 7:45
  • Adherents are usually religious folk. Mar 19, 2015 at 14:37

3 Answers 3


Compliance --> compliant

We need to comply. This setting is in compliance with rules and regulations.


We were following the rules. We were obedient. Obeying the law can get you in trouble, not obeying also.

Looking up obey in the thesaurus http://thesaurus.com/browse/obey the following came to mind.

Adherance to rules is good and necessary in order to be in adherence with the rules.


rule-bound, rule bound

Coker, Business owner's response caller.com Jan. 8, 2013

Some of us are rule bound. We obey the social exchange rules diligently and we expect all others to do likewise. Rule bound people believe, rightfully, that we can't have successful interaction in relationships that are mutually beneficial to both parties if one party violates the social exchange rules.

Sobel, Taking Chances 1994, p.121

The rule-bound person could have better options amongst which to choose in his choice situations.

Rule-bound, though correct, is now also used in a negative sense of being overly tied down by rules. Compliant on the other hand is too mild.


How about the word "obedient", for without a preexisting rule, there would be nothing to obey.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.