police

noun, often attributive
plural police

Definition of police

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : 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
3a : 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
5a : 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
6a : the action or process of cleaning and putting in order
b : military personnel detailed to perform this function

police

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

Definition of police (Entry 2 of 2)

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
3a : 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

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Synonyms for police

Synonyms: Noun

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Every 40 hours a Black person is killed by the police. cleveland, "‘It is our duty as American citizens to push our elected officials:’ Tri-C essay winner Ethan Khorana changed police policies," 15 Jan. 2021 There is no doubt movies denouncing the lack of accountability over police brutality can promote the need to address it, but when done this inelegantly in cinematic form, the intention proves insufficient. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Nate Parker takes on police brutality in ‘American Skin,’ but the drama plays like parody," 15 Jan. 2021 Before the Capitol attack, federal prosecutors talked about using the seditious conspiracy statute in cases involving protests against police brutality, though none were brought. Larry Neumeister, Star Tribune, "Rare sedition charge gains interest after Capitol attack," 15 Jan. 2021 In addition, youth protests against police brutality turned violent in October, leading to large scale looting and destruction of public and private assets, whose claims on the insurance industry are said to be highest on record. Emele Onu, Bloomberg.com, "Nigeria’s Lagos Boosts Infrastructure Spend After Youth Protests," 14 Jan. 2021 In the Black Lives Matter era, the church has also hosted the funerals of recent victims of police brutality like Rayshard Brooks. Time, "How One Atlanta Church Impacted Martin Luther King, Jr., the Civil Rights Movement and Incoming Sen. Raphael Warnock," 14 Jan. 2021 The acting leader of Australia, one of a handful of leaders to avoid direct criticism of Trump after the Capitol siege, equated the pro-Trump protests in Washington to the anti-police-brutality Black Lives Matter protests of the year before. Ruby Mellen, Washington Post, "What the world is saying about the U.S. after the Capitol attack," 13 Jan. 2021 There’s a lot of things that are going to have to change, not just police brutality. Craig Jenkins, Vulture, "Freddie Gibbs Made His Own Lane," 13 Jan. 2021 Floyd’s death sparked protests in Minneapolis and elsewhere and renewed calls for an end to police brutality and racial inequities. Amy Forliti, Anchorage Daily News, "Former officer who held knee to George Floyd’s neck to be tried separately from others," 13 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The result could shape not only the future of Facebook but the whole of Silicon Valley — and the government’s ability to police it. Washington Post, "U.S. vs. Facebook: Inside the tech giant’s behind-the-scenes campaign to battle back antitrust lawsuits," 22 Dec. 2020 Issues including the mutual recognition of labor permits and drivers’ licenses were sorted out relatively easily, but the sticking points were what Gibraltar’s border means and who should police it. New York Times, "Gibraltar Gets Its Own Last-Minute Brexit Deal on Borders," 31 Dec. 2020 Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at the University of California, Irvine, said the voluntary element makes sense because the state can't police whether people follow quarantine rules. Brian Melley, Star Tribune, "West Coast governors urge COVID quarantine after travel," 13 Nov. 2020 Messages on WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, are confidential and cannot be seen by moderators who police misleading memes, claims and other content on the social media giant’s flagship platform. NBC News, "Fake news spread on WhatsApp to Indian Americans plays stealth role in U.S. election," 27 Oct. 2020 That includes Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri who police pepper-sprayed and arrested on May 31. Wired Staff, Wired, "One Free Press Coalition Spotlights Journalists Under Attack," 1 Oct. 2020 That includes Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri who police pepper-sprayed and arrested on May 31. Brett Haensel, Fortune, "These 10 female journalists deserve justice immediately," 1 Oct. 2020 Furthermore, the use of tear gas has forced protesters to cough, which also increases the risk of potential spread, and arrested protesters who police confine in close quarters also are at greater risk. oregonlive, "Cities across the nation are offering protesters free coronavirus tests. Portland and Oregon aren’t.," 11 June 2020 The agency has broad legal authority to seek information from U.S. companies and is also empowered to police unfair and deceptive business practices. Ryan Tracy, WSJ, "FTC Demands Social-Media, Operations Data From Big Tech Companies," 14 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'police.' 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 police

Noun

1698, in the meaning defined at sense 5a

Verb

1589, in the meaning defined at sense 5

History and Etymology for police

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

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Time Traveler for police

Time Traveler

The first known use of police was in 1589

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Statistics for police

Last Updated

22 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Police.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/police. Accessed 22 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for police

police

noun

English Language Learners Definition of police

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the people or the department of people who enforce laws, investigate crimes, and make arrests

police

verb
How to pronounce police (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of police (Entry 2 of 2)

: to control and keep order in (an area) by the use of police or military forces
: to control (something) by making sure that rules and regulations are being followed

police

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

Kids Definition of police

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to keep order in or among Officers police the city.

police

noun
plural police

Kids Definition of police (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the department of government that keeps order and enforces law, investigates crimes, and makes arrests
2 police plural : members of a police force
po·​lice
policed; policing

Legal Definition of police

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to control, regulate, or keep in order especially as an official duty police the area

police

noun
plural police

Legal Definition of police (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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