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doc·​tri·​naire ˌdäk-trə-ˈner How to pronounce doctrinaire (audio)
: stubbornly or excessively devoted to a doctrine or theory without regard to practical considerations
… tended to stress uncritical, doctrinaire acceptance of the interpretations of law … Ross E. Dunn
… the doctrinaire evolutionary psychologists who choose ideology over knowledge. Jerry A. Coyne
doctrinairism noun


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: one who attempts to put into effect an abstract doctrine or theory with little or no regard for practical difficulties

Did you know?

Doctrinaire didn't start out as a critical word. In post-revolutionary France, a group who favored constitutional monarchy called themselves Doctrinaires. Doctrine in French, as in English, is a word for the principles on which a government is based; it is ultimately from Latin doctrina, meaning "teaching" or "instruction." But both ultraroyalists and revolutionists strongly derided any doctrine of reconciling royalty and representation as utterly impracticable, and they resented the Doctrinaires' influence over Louis XVIII. So when doctrinaire became an adjective, "there adhered to it some indescribable tincture of unpopularity which was totally indelible" (Blanc's History of Ten Years 1830-40, translated by Walter K. Kelly in 1848).

Choose the Right Synonym for doctrinaire

dictatorial, magisterial, dogmatic, doctrinaire, oracular mean imposing one's will or opinions on others.

dictatorial stresses autocratic, high-handed methods and a domineering manner.

exercised dictatorial control over the office

magisterial stresses assumption or use of prerogatives appropriate to a magistrate or schoolmaster in forcing acceptance of one's opinions.

the magisterial tone of his pronouncements

dogmatic implies being unduly and offensively positive in laying down principles and expressing opinions.

dogmatic about what is art and what is not

doctrinaire implies a disposition to follow abstract theories in framing laws or policies affecting people.

a doctrinaire approach to improving the economy

oracular implies the manner of one who delivers opinions in cryptic phrases or with pompous dogmatism.

a designer who is the oracular voice of fashion

Example Sentences

Adjective a doctrinaire conservative, the columnist takes special delight in baiting liberals
Recent Examples on the Web
Opposition is mounting among conservative Catholics who disapprove of his emphasis on the environment, migrants, and other issues rather than the doctrinaire focus of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI., 6 Oct. 2019 Founded in 1943, the IPTA pioneered a form of street theater that combined elements of folk music and drama with a revolutionary message (imagine a lively, non-doctrinaire variant of Mao’s propaganda outfits). Ratik Asokan, The New York Review of Books, 25 Jan. 2020 Finally, doctrinaire Republicans for decades mouthed orthodoxies of free rather than fair trade. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, 7 Nov. 2019 Opposition is mounting among conservative Catholics who disapprove of his emphasis on the environment, migrants and other issues rather than the doctrinaire focus of his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI. Nicole Winfield, San Diego Union-Tribune, 6 Oct. 2019 The best-case scenario is another Mike Pompeo, a doctrinaire crusading conservative with a light resume and a very brown nose who has quietly expanded his State department portfolio beyond its normal scope. Adam Weinstein, The New Republic, 10 Sep. 2019 Speaking of then and now, that party almost immediately split into warring factions, with a compromise-averse, more doctrinaire left wing challenged by more pragmatic moderates. Phil Primack,, 14 June 2019 Just as Johnson has alienated some Conservative moderates, Corbyn has lost the backing of some longtime Labour figures who are turned off by his doctrinaire approach. Washington Post, 10 Sep. 2019 Conservatism, traditionally, has not been doctrinaire. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 22 July 2019
Musk is an instinctive, not a doctrinaire, libertarian. The Editors, National Review, 31 Oct. 2022 Unlike more doctrinaire filmmakers of the time, such as Stanley Kramer, Stevens never permits his film’s message to overtake its artistry. Peter Tonguette, WSJ, 29 July 2022 Voters in the city want out of the suicide pact that is doctrinaire progressivism. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 17 June 2022 Vance represents a more doctrinaire America Firstism, which in some ways is traditional Republican politics on steroids and in other ways departs from those traditions. The New Yorker, 3 May 2022 The problem is Oz hasn't always been a doctrinaire conservative. Joel Mathis, The Week, 11 Apr. 2022 So, being a doctrinaire transnational progressive, what did Obama do once his negotiating partners agreed to the JCPOA? Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, 19 Mar. 2022 Few classes of creative people are as doctrinaire about dress as architects and interior designers. Jessica Iredale, Town & Country, 7 Apr. 2022 This is the crucial point, underscoring the scholarly refutation of the doctrinaire nonsense about the supposedly pro-slavery Revolution. Sean Wilentz, The New York Review of Books, 13 Jan. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'doctrinaire.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History



French, from doctrine

First Known Use


1834, in the meaning defined above


1831, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of doctrinaire was in 1831

Dictionary Entries Near doctrinaire

Cite this Entry

“Doctrinaire.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

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