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

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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 Some cases will turn on complex legal issues like the doctrine of fair use. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Congress creates new copyright court that could make trolling easier," 22 Dec. 2020 The Reagan doctrine of the American person was as crabbed and confining as his corporate vision was expansive and broad. Zephyr Teachout, The New Republic, "A Blueprint for a Trust-Busting Biden Presidency," 18 Dec. 2020 From first page to last, D.O., as he was known by everyone in his agency, hammered home the doctrine of rationality. Bruce Mccall, The New Yorker, "My Life in Cars," 12 Dec. 2020 Consequently, the court ruled that the doctrine of laches applied — i.e., claims must be timely raised or they are forfeited. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "Trump Campaign Election Litigation Appears to End in Pennsylvania While Proceeding in Georgia," 30 Nov. 2020 Without tipping her hand about her eventual vote, Barrett talked at length about the legal doctrine of severability. Mark Sherman And Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar, Star Tribune, "Without Ginsburg, high court support for health law in doubt," 7 Nov. 2020 Hastening the post-covid recovery will require overcoming the doctrine of austerity, which did so much to hurt the U.S. and other countries during the last recession. Arkansas Online, "OPINION | NOAH SMITH: Spending may end our recession," 1 Nov. 2020 While, the official French doctrine of colorblindness is intended to ignore ethnic and religious backgrounds and to have all French citizens seen as equally French, some mainstream politicians in the country have also hardened their rhetoric. NBC News, "Hardline politicians ramp up rhetoric after French church killings," 1 Nov. 2020 In an effort to avert further disaster, mayors and governors have begun to preach a doctrine of mirthlessness to American families — this will be the year of pie eaten alone in front of an iPad. Ginia Bellafante, New York Times, "Some Areas of N.Y.C. Are Getting a Lot More Testing. Guess Which Ones.," 30 Oct. 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.

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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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Time Traveler for doctrine

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

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Statistics for doctrine

Last Updated

19 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Doctrine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

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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 doctrine (audio) \ adjective

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Comments on doctrine

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