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
b plural : police officers
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


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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Police were sent to 11 Long Meadow Drive at 9:37 p.m. after a neighbor found the two-year-old boy wandering in the front yard, police said. Jesse Leavenworth, Hartford Courant, 20 May 2022 His wound is not considered life-threatening, police say. Cliff Pinckard, cleveland, 18 May 2022 Prosecutors have charged a 42-year-old Milwaukee man who police say fired at least five shots at a Milwaukee officer during a foot chase. Elliot Hughes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 18 May 2022 Northern California man is the killer in a Kansas City cold case, police say. Justin Raystaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 18 May 2022 Jamie Foxx is speaking out after a gunman killed 10 people and injured three others at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, Saturday during a mass shooting that police say was racially motivated. Elise Brisco, USA TODAY, 17 May 2022 An employee at a Tennessee KFC helped thwart a kidnapping after receiving a note from the victim begging for help, police say. Alexandra Schonfeld, PEOPLE.com, 17 May 2022 The tragedy began when a typical Saturday of grocery shopping turned into a violent nightmare as 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron arrived at Tops and gunned down people inside and outside of the store, police say. Lauren Petracca For Cnn, CNN, 16 May 2022 Cincinnati police say excessive speed appears to be a factor in a single-car crash that killed a woman in College Hill May 13. Jeanne Houck, The Enquirer, 16 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb His words are an apparent reference to his case, when Smollett allegedly lied to police three years ago after staging a phony hate crime attack on himself in downtown Chicago. Shanzeh Ahmad, chicagotribune.com, 12 Apr. 2022 Despite the Wisconsin Guard’s historically high number of missions over the last two years, Kleefisch wants to activate more troops, sending them to the Mexico border to police undocumented migrants. Katelyn Ferral, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 23 Dec. 2021 Anticipating an immediate appeal by the city, the judge put a hold on his ruling related to police internal use of livestreams. oregonlive, 21 Sep. 2021 But the situation raises larger questions about how Metro will police its facilities in the post-pandemic transition. Rachel Uranga, Los Angeles Times, 29 Apr. 2022 The Fox News host said the White House’s new Disinformation Governance Board will police people's opinions. Fox News, 29 Apr. 2022 Platforms have shown an inability to police comments that flow rapidly below often temporary livestreams and then disappear, says Thiel of the Stanford Internet Observatory. Alexandra S. Levine, Forbes, 27 Apr. 2022 Bullet casings indicate multiple weapons were used at the scene, and Schubert said multiple witnesses have come forward to help police with their investigation. Cady Stanton, USA TODAY, 18 Apr. 2022 Administration officials could use such tools to create an independent body within the executive branch of the U.S. government to help police intelligence agencies, which are also overseen by the executive branch. David Uberti, WSJ, 28 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of police


1698, in the meaning defined at sense 5a


1589, in the meaning defined at sense 5

History and Etymology for police


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).


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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police action

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Statistics for police

Last Updated

22 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Police.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/police. Accessed 22 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for police


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.


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


transitive verb
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


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

More from Merriam-Webster on police

Nglish: Translation of police for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of police for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about police


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