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 The church has repeatedly denied its doctrines bar members from reporting to police. James Queally, Los Angeles Times, 17 May 2023 But there are questions about how much support that doctrine still has. John Fritze, USA TODAY, 11 May 2023 The Supreme Court agreed to take up a case with significant implications for its next term, concerning a dispute on whether to abolish a legal doctrine giving agencies a wide scope to define their own powers. Kaelan Deese, Washington Examiner, 1 May 2023 The Biden administration defended the fishing service and the Chevron doctrine. Robert Barnes, Anchorage Daily News, 1 May 2023 Enter Email Sign Up At least four conservative members of the court — Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh — have questioned the doctrine. Jessica Gresko And Mark Sherman,, 1 May 2023 The industry argues that the California law violates the dormant commerce clause, a doctrine which claims that the Constitution implicitly prohibits states from passing laws that excessively burden interstate commerce. Hannah Story Brown, The New Republic, 18 Apr. 2023 Though Internet Archive argued it was legally allowed to lend out the copies under the fair use doctrine, U.S. District Court Jude John G. Koeltl ultimately sided with the publishers. Theara Coleman, The Week, 9 Apr. 2023 Long-standing Catholic and Protestant tradition (if not doctrine) called for the ringing of bells during thunderstorms to dissipate the diabolical nature of the tempest. IEEE Spectrum, 1 Apr. 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 Jun. 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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