Looking for a single-word adjective or phrase meaning "on principle" or "as a matter of principle", that can fit in:

I don't go on dates with people I just met. That's why I declined to go on a date with him, even if he was cute. I gave him a [?] rejection.

I'd love to do that, but I have to give you a [?] refusal; it'd be against my moral code.

Close, but not quite:

  • "principled" feels like it means "ethical". But my refusal isn't a matter of ethics, but a matter of convention.
  • "conventional" or "traditional" imply regularity. This could be the first time I'm making this kind of refusal, and it could still be a matter of principle.
  • 1
    I can write an answer for pro forma or across-the-board. Mar 14, 2023 at 22:20
  • pro forma is good enough; i'll edit it to a phrase request
    – cjquines
    Mar 14, 2023 at 22:43
  • I was wondering how it could be both "a matter of convention" and "the first time I'm making this refusal" - to me, convention implies something that is done repeatedly in the same way - but pro forma seems as good as you'll get, although it has strong implications of convention or rote.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 14, 2023 at 22:46
  • 2
    Not convinced that any of the alternatives suggested are an improvement in the context suggested (likewise the "categorical" in the answer suggested). All of them lose important shades of meaning and are less idiomatic.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 14, 2023 at 23:20
  • 5
    If the two words pro forma are an acceptable answer why not the obvious on principle? The principle in question may simply be not dating people you only met 10 minutes ago, it doesn't have to be a "moral" principle, it might be a hygienic principle or a financial principle or any other sort of principle. Mar 15, 2023 at 6:49

5 Answers 5


Categorical could work here. Merriam-Webster defines it as

1 : absolute, unqualified

a categorical denial

The idea here is that a principled objection or denial occurs without caveat or exception. Categorical describes the absolute state of that objection.

  • +1 This is a strong answer, even if it is a little more sophisticated in its tone. To categorically reject dates means to reject them based on rules and qualification of members of categories which is exactly what happens when one applies heuristics to dating. "I'd love to do that, but I have to give you a categorical refusal; it'd be against my moral code. It's not a personal decision, but a principled one." You can also rephrase this as "While I don't want to refuse, I have to refuse on principle; it'd be against my moral code. Sometimes we must categorically reject action."
    – J D
    Mar 15, 2023 at 18:48

Perhaps blanket would work — that would “cover” any reasons you had for the rejection.

blanket, n. and adj.
B. adj. (in attributive use).
4. Originally U.S. Covering or including all or many cases, contingencies, situations, etc.; inclusive; all-embracing.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary (login required)

I don’t go on dates with people I just met. That’s why I declined to go on a date with him, even if he was cute. I gave him a blanket rejection.

I’d love to do that, but I have to give you a blanket refusal; it’d be against my moral code.


  • Blanket, as used in, say, blanket policy, does convey the idea that the OP has in mind, but I don't think that it works syntactically in the OP's examples. I may have a blanket policy to decline invitations in all such cases, and I may decline a particular invitation as a result of that blanket policy, but I don't think one would say that this particular rejection is a blanket rejection.
    – jsw29
    Mar 16, 2023 at 15:23

I suggest

I gave him the standard rejection.

Cambridge Dictionary has

  • a moral rule that should be obeyed


I gave him the customary refusal.

Cambridge Dictionary has

  • reflecting or showing a way of behaving or a belief that has been established for a long time among a group of people:
  • And other synonyms, such as obligatory. Mar 14, 2023 at 23:59
  • 1
    Somehow "standard" and "customary" both sound extremely derogatory here, because they can both be understood as synonyms of "usual, normal, not special, unexceptional". "He asked me to go on a data and I dismissed him with the standard rejection, without giving it a second thought, because he was so ordinary and so not special"
    – Stef
    Mar 15, 2023 at 9:51
  • Neither of those sound like typical usage.
    – J D
    Mar 15, 2023 at 18:46
  • @Stef the OP hasn't asked for a word that you use to decline a date. You have written an irrelevant rejoinder, quite unlike what OP is saying. Mar 15, 2023 at 19:03
  • @WeatherVane I am sure there is no need for that kind of hostile comment, thank you. Have a nice day.
    – Stef
    Mar 16, 2023 at 9:23

I do not think there is a word or standard phrase that does exactly what you want. Even "as a matter of principle" carries the "ethical" connotation that you are trying to avoid. I think for the first example you might convey what you want by adding the sentence "There was nothing personal about it." But obviously that's not what you're looking for.


If the reason is to follow your rule, then consider

... I gave him my mandatory rejection.

It is another synonym of obligatory:

1 : required by a law or rule : OBLIGATORY
     the mandatory retirement age

If instead you want to convey you have personal principles that prevent you from doing what others might view as customary, you could consider

... I gave him a conscientious rejection.

This is kind of a pun on the term conscientious objection:

the fact of refusing to obey a particular order or rule or to do a particular type of work for moral or religious reasons

While the word itself just means following your conscience:

2 : governed by or conforming to the dictates of conscience : SCRUPULOUS

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