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

One is nuclear doctrine, an area where each country sees the other as growing more gung-ho. The Economist, "What Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin ought to talk about in Helsinki," 12 July 2018 Trump’s authoritarian doctrine has not been tested by the courts, and seems unlikely to prevail. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "The Rule of Law Is Crumbling Further Each Day Under Trump," 10 June 2018 This is also the case with cardinals who propose to bless homosexual relationships, something which is diametrically opposed to the doctrine of the church. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "The Catholic Church’s Looming Fight Over Same-Sex Blessings," 22 May 2018 Courts have cited Chevron deference, as this doctrine is known, to grant wide latitude to regulatory agencies, from the EPA to the Department of Labor and the Federal Communications Commission. Greg Ip, WSJ, "The Supreme Court Won’t Stop Executive Overreach," 11 July 2018 Chevron defenders argue the doctrine is essential to a functional government. The Economist, "A court with a solid conservative majority could reshape American life," 5 July 2018 Kavanaugh has put a finer point on that view elsewhere, criticizing what’s known as the Chevron doctrine, a Supreme Court precedent that gives agencies leeway to craft rules in the absence of clear directives from Congress. Tory Newmyer, Washington Post, "The Finance 202: CFPB further under fire with Kavanaugh pick for Supreme Court," 11 July 2018 His positions have suggested a skepticism toward the Chevron doctrine, a precedent that calls for courts to defer to agency interpretations of statutes. Natasha Bach, Fortune, "Why Trump Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Is Business's New Best Friend," 10 July 2018 At issue was an antiquated legal principle called the third-party doctrine, which holds that information customers voluntarily provide to a third party—such as a telecom company or a bank—is outside the bounds of Fourth Amendment protections. Louise Matsakis, WIRED, "The Supreme Court Just Greatly Strengthened Digital Privacy," 22 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

12 Sep 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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