police

1 of 2

noun

plural police
often attributive
1
a
: the department of government concerned primarily with maintenance of public order, safety, and health and enforcement of laws and possessing executive, judicial, and legislative powers
b
: the department of government charged with prevention, detection, and prosecution of public nuisances and crimes
2
b
plural : police officers
3
a
: a private organization resembling a police force
campus police
b
plural : the members of a private police organization
4
: one attempting to regulate or censor a specified field or activity
the fashion police
5
a
: the internal organization or regulation of a political unit through exercise of governmental powers especially with respect to general comfort, health, morals, safety, or prosperity
b
: control and regulation of affairs affecting the general order and welfare of any unit or area
c
: the system of laws for effecting such control
6
a
: the action or process of cleaning and putting in order
b
: military personnel detailed to perform this function

police

2 of 2

verb

po·​lice pə-ˈlēs How to pronounce police (audio)
policed; policing

transitive verb

1
: to control, regulate, or keep in order by use of police
2
: to perform the functions of a police force in or over
3
a
: to supervise the operation, execution, or administration of to prevent or detect and prosecute violations of rules and regulations
b
: to exercise such supervision over the policies and activities of
4
: to make clean and put in order
5
archaic : govern

Examples of police in a Sentence

Noun Police arrested a man whom they identified as the murderer. the appearance of a ransom note meant that the teenager's disappearance was now a matter for the police Verb The officers police the streets for reckless drivers. The coast is policed by the military. The international agency polices the development of atomic energy facilities.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Last Sunday, just after midnight, Lincoln police responded to reports of a stabbing. Liza Esquibias, Peoplemag, 18 Feb. 2024 David Satterfield, the Biden administration's special Middle East envoy for humanitarian issues, said criminal gangs are increasingly targeting the convoys when police escorts leave after Israeli strikes. Wafaa Shurafa and Bassem Mroue The Associated Press, arkansasonline.com, 18 Feb. 2024 At that time, police also used pepper spray on people blocking the street, police said. Joe Marusak, Charlotte Observer, 18 Feb. 2024 At night, there is little, if any, police presence (aka CHP or California Highway Patrol) on 405 and drivers are free to race at speeds over 90 mph and drive while texting or while under the influence. Brooke Crothers, Forbes, 18 Feb. 2024 Dallas police are investigating an apparent murder-suicide that left two people dead Friday afternoon in the Stemmons Corridor, officials said. Harriet Ramos, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 17 Feb. 2024 One of the drivers left the Beltway crash scene, police said. Martin Weil, Washington Post, 17 Feb. 2024 Apartheid resulted in deep poverty and indignity for Black communities, quickly generating anti-apartheid social movements that South African police tried to violently suppress. Benjamin Case, The Conversation, 6 Feb. 2024 On top of that number, the regular police and secret police maintain separate networks of renumerated spies and unpaid informers whose exact numbers are classified. Minxin Pei, Foreign Affairs, 6 Feb. 2024
Verb
Now each of the county’s various police agencies and the Sheriff’s Department, which polices several cities and the county’s rural areas, maintain its own seizure statistics. Alex Riggins, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 Feb. 2024 Content creators can push the limits a bit more with Reels, which are not currently policed as thoroughly as photo postings said Udell. Julie Weed, Forbes, 16 Feb. 2024 Now, there is more scrutiny about policing itself, in addition to pressure from police organizations and insurance companies to have tighter restrictions on chases. Katie Moore, Kansas City Star, 15 Feb. 2024 The equipment uses acoustic sensors to triangulate the sound of gunfire, with information relayed to police within 60 seconds, according to the company’s website. Stepheny Price, Fox News, 13 Feb. 2024 As homicides and carjackings increased, D.C. retreated on policing reforms The chief judge of D.C. Michael Brice-Saddler, Washington Post, 6 Feb. 2024 These dangers for young users are baked into the design of contemporary social media, which requires much clearer statutes about who polices social media and when intervention is needed. Joan Donovan, The Conversation, 1 Feb. 2024 And these companies have the singular responsibility to police this. Jo Ling Kent, CBS News, 30 Jan. 2024 She was promoted by Moore in 2020 and is considered a rising star who helped shape the LAPD’s community policing approach. Libor Jany, Los Angeles Times, 28 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'police.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English, "regulation of public affairs," borrowed from Middle French, "administrative organization, conduct of a collective body (as the government or church)," borrowed from Late Latin polītīa "citizenship, political organization, constitution of a state, administrative direction" (Latin, the title of Plato's dialogue The Republic), borrowed from Greek polīteía "body of citizens, citizenship, government, administration, constitution of a state, republican government," collective or abstract derivative of polī́tēs "citizen, freeman," from pólis "citadel, city, community of citizens, city-state" + -ītēs -ite entry 1; pólis going back to o-grade ablaut of an Indo-European base *pelH-, whence also, from zero-grade *pl̥H-, Sanskrit púr-, pū́ḥ "wall, rampart," Lithuanian pilìs "fortress, castle," Latvian pils

Note: The sense "government body charged with the maintenance of public order," apparently first current in Scotland in the eighteenth century or earlier, was borrowed from French, where it originated in the seventeenth century as a concretization of an earlier more abstract sense "public order." Middle French police is a doublet of policie policy entry 1; police developed from a variant of Late Latin polītīa with stress shifted to the second syllable, policie from a form with stress on the third syllable, its expected position by Latin stress rules. In English before ca. 1700 police appears to have usually been stressed on the first syllable (as also policy); this pronunciation remains regional in the British isles and the U.S. — Greek has a variant ptólis that occurs in Homer and in dialects (Cypriot, Thessalian, Arcadian). R. Beekes (Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009) suggests as an Indo-European reconstruction *tpolH- to account for this. The sequence -oli- in this word, with what appears to be o-grade, has been explained as a regular outcome of *-l̥h1- in Greek, which would make pólis directly comparable to Sanskrit púr-, pū́ḥ (see discussion in A.L. Sihler, Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin, Oxford, 1995, p. 104; and K. Strunk, "Verkannte Spuren eines weiteren Tiefstufentyps im Griechischen," Glotta, Band 47 [1969], pp. 1-8).

Verb

in sense 5 borrowed from Middle French policier "to administer, govern, control," derivative of police "administrative organization"; in other senses verbal derivative of police entry 1

First Known Use

Noun

1698, in the meaning defined at sense 5a

Verb

1589, in the meaning defined at sense 5

Time Traveler
The first known use of police was in 1589

Dictionary Entries Near police

Cite this Entry

“Police.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/police. Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

police

1 of 2 verb
po·​lice pə-ˈlēs How to pronounce police (audio)
policed; policing
1
: to control, regulate, or keep in order by use of police
police a city
2
: to make clean and put in order
police the area

police

2 of 2 noun
plural police
1
: the department of government that keeps order and enforces law, investigates crimes, and makes arrests
2
plural : members of a police force
3
: a private or military force like a police force
campus police

Legal Definition

police

1 of 2 transitive verb
po·​lice
policed; policing
: to control, regulate, or keep in order especially as an official duty
police the area

police

2 of 2 noun
plural police
1
: the control and regulation of affairs affecting the order and welfare of a political unit and its citizens
2
a
: the department of a government or other institution that maintains order and safety and enforces laws
c
plural : the members of a police force

More from Merriam-Webster on police

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