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

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 Intentionally light on doctrine to broaden its appeal, HTC quickly outgrew Youngkin’s basement. Washington Post, 23 Sep. 2021 Entitlements to Colorado River water in Arizona are divided into six levels of priority based on the doctrine of prior appropriation. Ian James, The Arizona Republic, 17 Apr. 2021 The isn’t a flag-specific doctrine for free-speech cases; indeed, the court has often declined to treat the Stars and Stripes any differently for First Amendment purposes. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 19 Nov. 2021 Colonialism under the British was an altruistic doctrine. . . . Washington Post, 16 Nov. 2021 Qualified immunity is a controversial legal doctrine that shields law enforcement from liability for some constitutional violations. Aj Willingham, CNN, 19 Oct. 2021 This was a quasi-religious doctrine, turning aesthetic disagreements into matters of grave moral significance. Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker, 6 Sep. 2021 Western philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein maintained that philosophy was not a doctrine, as most philosophers in the West always took it to be, but an activity. Dave Anderson, Star Tribune, 29 June 2021 There is no general caretaking doctrine that justifies warrantless searches and seizures in the home. Dallas News, 30 May 2021

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

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Dictionary Entries Near doctrine



doctrine of correspondence

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Last Updated

7 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Doctrine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2022.

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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 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

More from Merriam-Webster on doctrine

Nglish: Translation of doctrine for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of doctrine for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about doctrine


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