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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for doctrine


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The doctrine and the laws hold that only individual physicians should be licensed to practice medicine, not corporations. NBC News, "Private equity firms now control many hospitals, ERs and nursing homes. Is it good for health care?," 13 May 2020 But as time went by, the contradictions between doctrine and reality became harder to ignore. Laila Lalami, Harper's Magazine, "Bright Stars," 30 Mar. 2020 His tweets and retweets, which can come at a fevered rate of more than a hundred a day, provide real-time talking points for right-wing media outlets, and are absorbed as doctrine by millions of faithful constituents. David Remnick, The New Yorker, "What Donald Trump Shares with Joseph McCarthy," 17 May 2020 Over time, some say Lori became more and more obsessed with these extreme religious beliefs, venturing way beyond traditional Mormon doctrine. CBS News, "Search for missing Idaho children reveals "no sign of life, no sign of death"," 16 May 2020 That action was part of a wider purge of the Saudi diplomatic corps that forced out officials who were spreading Wahabi Islamic doctrine in mosques around the United States. Tim Golden, ProPublica, "The Justice Department Accidentally Released the Name of Saudi Official Suspected of Helping the 9/11 Hijackers," 13 May 2020 The argument featured a new twist on an old doctrine. Los Angeles Times, "Supreme Court sounds split in case on rights for Catholic school teachers," 11 May 2020 The coronavirus pandemic has proved to be a perfect vehicle for the religion’s apocalyptic themes and esoteric doctrines. Sam Kestenbaum, New York Times, "Inside the Fringe Japanese Religion That Claims It Can Cure Covid-19," 16 Apr. 2020 Forget about the server test In the past, this kind of legal dispute has revolved around a doctrine called the server test. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Judge smacks down copyright suit over Instagram embedding," 15 Apr. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about doctrine

Time Traveler for doctrine

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for doctrine

Last Updated

5 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Doctrine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for doctrine


How to pronounce doctrine (audio)

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 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 doctrinal (audio) \ adjective

Keep scrolling for more

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!