doc·​trine | \ ˈdäk-trən How to pronounce doctrine (audio) \

Definition of doctrine

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

Synonyms for doctrine


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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 However, that is changing fast thanks to the central role of innovation in Army modernization plans and doctrine. Loren Thompson, Forbes, 26 Oct. 2021 The Supreme Court threw out two separate excessive-force lawsuits filed against police, ruling that the doctrine of qualified immunity protected the officers from having to answer the allegations in court. WSJ, 19 Oct. 2021 India’s nuclear forces and doctrine, by contrast, are designed for retaliation after a prior nuclear attack. Jessica T. Mathews, The New York Review of Books, 5 Nov. 2020 Suing Houston and Harris County for negligence would be difficult, given that both enjoy broad protection under the doctrine of sovereign and government immunity, but there are exceptions, several lawyers said., 9 Nov. 2021 City Attorney Mara Elliott and one of her chief deputies are citing the legal doctrine of qualified immunity as one of several reasons a lawsuit filed against them by an NBC 7 journalist should be dismissed. Jeff Mcdonald, San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 Oct. 2021 One prominent split has focused on the doctrine of qualified immunity that provides legal protections to police and other public officials accused of misconduct. Brent Kendall, WSJ, 22 Oct. 2021 Uniquely among all religious institutions, the Vatican is also generally shielded from claims in U.S. courts under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which protects nation-states from hostile civil and criminal proceedings. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 7 Oct. 2021 All of this success, however, relies on the doctrine of the exceptional individual. New York Times, 30 Sep. 2021

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 2

History and Etymology for doctrine

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

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

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doctrine of correspondence

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Last Updated

27 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Doctrine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Dec. 2021.

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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
: a statement of government policy especially in international relations


doc·​trine | \ ˈdäk-trən How to pronounce doctrine (audio) \

Kids Definition of doctrine

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


doc·​trine | \ ˈdäk-trən How to pronounce doctrine (audio) \

Legal Definition of doctrine

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

Other Words from doctrine

doctrinal \ -​trə-​nəl How to pronounce doctrine (audio) \ adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on doctrine

Nglish: Translation of doctrine for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of doctrine for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about doctrine


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