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 The suspect fled south on 15th Street from Callowhill Street, police said. Antonio Planas, NBC News, 17 Sep. 2022 All involved parties are cooperating with the investigation, police said. Mike Mavredakis, Hartford Courant, 16 Sep. 2022 After the gunshot, the shooter continued heading north on I-95, police said. Jason Fontelieu, Baltimore Sun, 16 Sep. 2022 The man administered aid until paramedics arrived and pronounced her dead, police said. Christopher Weber, USA TODAY, 16 Sep. 2022 The case remained under investigation with pending charges, police said. Howard Koplowitz | Hkoplowitz@al.com, al, 16 Sep. 2022 Chairs, bottles and hookah pipes were thrown, police said at the time, causing minor injuries to that woman and another employee of the club. Christie D’zurillastaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 16 Sep. 2022 Officers found Santos-Melendez with gunshot wounds in a convenience store parking lot in the 7700 block of 23rd Avenue just before 1 a.m. on Sept. 5, police said. Jasmine Hilton, Washington Post, 16 Sep. 2022 One person is dead and a second is hospitalized after three cars crashed in Coconut Creek on Thursday afternoon, police said. Angie Dimichele, Sun Sentinel, 16 Sep. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Russia is in a security alliance with Armenia and deployed hundreds of troops there as peace-keepers to police the deal and enforce the lines separating the sides in the enclave. Patrick Reevell, ABC News, 13 Sep. 2022 Efforts to police or self-regulate the industry have only ended up exacerbating this issue. Pete Rizzo, Forbes, 4 July 2022 These artists, making art on our own terms, owning our truths and expressing ourselves freely and unapologetically in a world that tries to control and police our bodies, my body and our decisions, my decision. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, 27 June 2022 In China, where the authorities tightly police and punish speech both online and offline, public opinion appears largely sympathetic to Mr. Putin. Chris Buckley, New York Times, 18 Mar. 2022 Allowing the Steve-Peggy branch means having to police that reality and prevent other Nexus events within it. Chris Smith, BGR, 28 July 2021 Clearly, this is no time for the U to police less or collaborate less with other law enforcement agencies. Editorial Board, Star Tribune, 29 June 2021 We've been advised to set boundaries, police their screen time or get on the digital fun bus ourselves and trade some elf shrews with TinkerBelle2012. Amy Brill, Arkansas Online, 14 June 2021 We’ve been advised to set boundaries, police their screen time or get on the digital fun bus ourselves and trade some elf shrews with TinkerBelle2012 or FartFace11. Washington Post, 24 May 2021 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

19 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

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