doc·​trine | \ ˈdäk-trən \

Definition of doctrine

1 archaic : teaching, instruction
2a : something that is taught
b : a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief : dogma Catholic doctrine
c law : a principle of law established through past decisions
d : a statement of fundamental government policy especially in international relations the Truman Doctrine
e : a military principle or set of strategies

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Synonyms for doctrine


canon, dogma

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Did You Know?

The original doctrines were those of the Catholic Church, especially as taught by the so-called doctors (religious scholars) of the Church. But today a doctrine can come from many other sources. Old and established legal principles are called legal doctrine. Traditional psychiatrists still follow the doctrines of Sigmund Freud. Communist doctrine in the 1920s and ʼ30s was often the teachings of Lenin, which were then regarded in the Soviet Union as almost sacred. U.S. presidents have given their names to doctrines as well: In 1823 the Monroe Doctrine stated that the United States would oppose European influence in the Americas, and in 1947 the Truman Doctrine held that America would support free countries against enemies outside and inside.

Examples of doctrine in a Sentence

The government was founded on a doctrine of equality for all people. Many psychologists now question the doctrines of Sigmund Freud. teaching religious doctrine to young people
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Recent Examples on the Web

The judges in the trade panel acknowledged the Supreme Court precedent and also questioned lawyers about another federal case on the delegation doctrine that the court has agreed to hear. William Mauldin, WSJ, "Court Questions Law That Underpins Trump’s Trade Policy," 19 Dec. 2018 And yet his lawyers turned the demands Trump has been making in public and private into a full-on doctrine in the form of memos submitted to Mueller over the past 12 months. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "The Rule of Law Is Crumbling Further Each Day Under Trump," 10 June 2018 Their entire political project was based on the doctrine that the British had no right to rule in any part of Ireland, that the people of the entire island had the right to choose their government as one national political unit. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, "What Gerry Adams Leaves Behind," 10 Feb. 2018 If our Legislature truly believes that civil rights and secular law should prevail over religious practices, then, truly, sharia should be no more of a threat than any other religious doctrine in the United States. Said Ahmed-zaid, idahostatesman, "Legislature’s anti-sharia law bill is unnecessary and discriminatory | Idaho Statesman," 9 Feb. 2018 But in recent years, the doctrine has become so worn that even Sandberg herself has been rethinking it. Aja Romano, Vox, "Michelle Obama “leans in” better than anyone. She just rejected the idea that it works.," 3 Dec. 2018 However, the pastor elected Tuesday as the SBC’s new president — J.D. Greear — is among numerous SBC leaders saying the doctrine needs to be observed in a way that’s respectful of women and encourages them to play an active role in church affairs. Washington Post, "#MeToo cases in the spotlight as Southern Baptists convene," 12 June 2018 Under the severability doctrine, courts ask three main questions. WSJ, "Texas’ ObamaCare Strikedown Should Stand," 21 Dec. 2018 He's lionized for advocating a heliocentric view of our solar system, spurning Church doctrine and becoming a heretic. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "Newfound Galileo Letter Suggests He Lied to Dupe the Church and Avoid Persecution," 25 Sep. 2018

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

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First Known Use of doctrine

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for doctrine

Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin doctrina, from doctor

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Statistics for doctrine

Last Updated

14 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for doctrine

The first known use of doctrine was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for doctrine



English Language Learners Definition of doctrine

: a set of ideas or beliefs that are taught or believed to be true
US : a statement of government policy especially in international relations


doc·​trine | \ ˈdäk-trən \

Kids Definition of doctrine

: something (as a rule or principle) that is taught, believed in, or considered to be true


doc·​trine | \ ˈdäk-trən \

Legal Definition of doctrine

: a principle established through judicial decisions — compare law, precedent

Other Words from doctrine

doctrinal \ -​trə-​nəl \ adjective

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Comments on doctrine

What made you want to look up doctrine? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to deny responsibility for

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