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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

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The noun doctrine refers to a set of ideas or beliefs that are taught or believed to be true, and is often used specifically for the principles on which a government or religion may be based. Its adjectival form, doctrinal (“of, relating, or preoccupied with doctrine”), as in “doctrinal teachings,” is straightforward and not particularly judgmental. Doctrinaire, however, describes someone who is rigidly and impractically devoted to a doctrine. This critical connotation comes from the word’s history in post-revolutionary France as a name for members of a group of constitutional monarchists led by statesman and philosopher Pierre Paul Royer-Collard. Royer-Collard’s doctrine was opposed by both ultraroyalists and revolutionists, and he was given the nickname “doctrinaire,” which was later capitalized and extended to his colleagues, thereafter known as the Doctrinaires.

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

Examples of doctrinaire in a Sentence

Adjective a doctrinaire conservative, the columnist takes special delight in baiting liberals
Recent Examples on the Web
Ali Hassan Mwinyi, a schoolteacher turned politician who led Tanzania as its second post-independence president and helped dismantle the doctrinaire socialism of his predecessor, Julius K. Nyerere, died on Thursday in Dar es Salaam, the country’s former capital. Alan Cowell, New York Times, 29 Feb. 2024 Free Trade Dominic Pino : In Cass’s telling, economists became doctrinaire free-traders, as a class, after World War II. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 5 Feb. 2024 The most viable path through which restraint could become the dominant strand of strategic thinking among U.S. policymakers is the promotion of a foreign policy that is realist yet not doctrinaire, internationalist yet prudent. Emma Ashford, Foreign Affairs, 24 Aug. 2021 The moderates who ended up on the high court, to the occasional chagrin of conservatives who dream of radical change being handed down by a more doctrinaire majority, helped mask a deeper rightward shift on the court from liberals’ point of view. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 10 May 2023 Domestic opponents portray Petro as a doctrinaire Communist bent on violence, but that depiction is overblown. Ken Silverstein, The New Republic, 20 Apr. 2023 The devil is too doctrinaire. Andy Kessler, WSJ, 28 Aug. 2022 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
Zionism, at least at its most doctrinaire, insists a Jew can achieve total realization as a Jew only by living in Israel. Marc Tracy, New York Times, 14 Jan. 2024 Loach, a longtime socialist, more doctrinaire than his English fellow travelers Mike Leigh and Terence Davies, usually makes unabashedly pedantic dramas about working-class issues (Riff-Raff; My Name Is Joe; The Wind That Shakes the Barley; I, Daniel Blake; and Singing the Blues in Red). Armond White, National Review, 29 Mar. 2023 Results ranged from silly (No. 100, One Sings the Other Doesn’t; No. 64, The American President) to doctrinaire (No. 36, Jeanne Dielman; No. 8, Do the Right Thing). Armond White, National Review, 28 June 2023 That isn’t to call the show doctrinaire. Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times, 18 Oct. 2022 At first, the AFI seems the least doctrinaire; its alphabetical order suggests objectivity. Armond White, National Review, 18 Jan. 2023 The increasing collaboration between archaeologists and ecologists is revealing an ancient world that discomfits doctrinaire environmentalists. Keith Kloor, Discover Magazine, 19 Apr. 2010 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

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'doctrinaire.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 15 Apr. 2024.

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