doc·​trine ˈdäk-trən How to pronounce doctrine (audio)
: a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief : dogma
Catholic doctrine
: a statement of fundamental government policy especially in international relations
the Truman Doctrine
law : a principle of law established through past decisions
: a military principle or set of strategies
: something that is taught
archaic : teaching, instruction

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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.

Example Sentences

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
Recent Examples on the Web Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a video message at a Kohelet conference, thanking the group for supporting the new doctrine. Isabel Kershner, New York Times, 20 Mar. 2023 The doctrine is a product of a very specific ideological moment in the Supreme Court’s history. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 13 Mar. 2023 And there are other good ones: Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo certainly, my friend Tim Scott would all be good candidates who understand the Trump doctrine but have a demeanor that's probably more suitable to the, to the swing voter. Nbc Universal, NBC News, 12 Mar. 2023 But Trump abandoned that doctrine, and other Republicans, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, fell in line — even though fiscal experts in both parties acknowledge that the programs are heading toward financial trouble. Doyle Mcmanus, Los Angeles Times, 12 Mar. 2023 Conservative critics say the Chevron doctrine cedes too much power to bureaucrats. Emily Caldwell, Dallas News, 3 Mar. 2023 The Biden administration argues that doctrine should not apply. John Fritze, USA TODAY, 28 Feb. 2023 Heralded by conservative Justices, this doctrine posits that government agencies cannot make decisions on issues of major political and economic significance without explicit directives from Congress. Eleni Schirmer, The New Yorker, 23 Feb. 2023 When these lawsuits against the FTC get filed, the major questions doctrine is probably going to be one of the arguments presented by opponents of the new rule. Tom Spiggle, Forbes, 14 Feb. 2023 See More

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

Dictionary Entries Near doctrine

Cite this Entry

“Doctrine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Apr. 2023.

Kids Definition


doc·​trine ˈdäk-trən How to pronounce doctrine (audio)
: something that is taught
: a principle or the principles in a system of belief

Middle English doctrine "instruction," from early French doctrine and Latin doctrina (both, same meaning), from earlier Latin doctor "teacher," from docēre "to teach" — related to docile, doctor

Legal Definition


doc·​trine ˈdäk-trən How to pronounce doctrine (audio)
: a principle established through judicial decisions compare law, precedent
doctrinal adjective

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