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

Under the doctrine, courts must generally defer to an agency’s own interpretation of federal statutes when hearing challenges to that agency’s exercise of power. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "A Watershed Moment in American History," 10 July 2018 White, 57, pleaded guilty under the Alford doctrine to the murders of Shiraleen Crawford, who was killed in 1997 in her Martin Street apartment, and Sonia Rivera, who was killed in 2012 behind a building on Washington Street. David Owens,, "Hartford Man Convicted Of Killing Two Women Pleads Guilty To Killing Two More," 22 June 2018 The modern Mormon church does not embrace or accept the White Horse Prophecy as church doctrine. Leah Sottile, Longreads, "Bundyville Chapter Two: By a Thread," 16 May 2018 That doctrine, in the form of a series of rulings, holds that all communities must provide their fair share of homes for those of limited means. Colleen O'dea,, "As N.J. rents continue to rise, finding an apartment becomes even harder," 24 June 2018 Courts have interpreted the third-party doctrine to mean that, by sharing information or records with a company or some other organization, a person gives up any reasonable expectation that the information will remain private. Larry Greenemeier, Scientific American, "Should Law Enforcement Need a Warrant to Track Your Cell Phone?," 28 Nov. 2017 Judge Kavanaugh has also been a leader on the appellate courts in challenging the Chevron doctrine of judicial deference to regulators. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Kavanaugh for the Court," 9 July 2018 Chief Justice John Roberts has appeared reluctant to overturn precedents – indeed, the stare decisis doctrine of following precedents holds that such action should occur only under unusual circumstances. Henry Gass, The Christian Science Monitor, "With departure of swing vote, a pivotal moment for the Supreme Court," 28 June 2018 The landmark ruling was based on the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity, which forbids courts to consider lawsuits against the state without its consent. Bill Rankin, ajc, "Trump’s short list for high court includes two Georgia justices," 27 June 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

7 Nov 2018

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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

: 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).


playful or foolish behavior

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