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.

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
Recent Examples on the Web In that case and three others, Lexington submitted denials and claims of immunity from civil penalty under the doctrine of qualified immunity, a legal framework that often protects individual officers. Robert Klemko, Washington Post, 3 July 2024 The doctrine gave federal agencies the benefit of the doubt in deciding how ambiguous laws should be interpreted. Jason Ma, Fortune, 2 July 2024 Conservatives have had it in for Chevron deference for a long time; given their current majority on the court, the doctrine’s death has been a foregone conclusion, awaiting only the appearance of a suitable case to use as a bludgeon. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 2 July 2024 The doctrine gave federal agencies the power to interpret laws when rulemaking and ensured that lower courts deferred to them. Jordan Pearson, WIRED, 1 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for doctrine 

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 15 Jul. 2024.

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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