1 of 2


po·​lis ˈpä-ləs How to pronounce polis (audio)
plural poleis ˈpä-ˌlās How to pronounce polis (audio)
: a Greek city-state
broadly : a state or society especially when characterized by a sense of community


2 of 2

noun combining form

: city

Examples of polis in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
This has historical precedent, the Greek colonies alonge fringes of the Mediterranean were founded by men, sometimes explicitly exiled from their home polis. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 1 June 2011 His destination is the island of Issa in Liburnia—or present-day Croatia—where the Greek polis has sent laborers to build a city at the northern edge of the empire. Sam Sacks, WSJ, 25 Nov. 2022 This search is necessarily a collective endeavor; that is a principal reason, Aristotle thought, that individuals congregate together in a polis in the first place. Win McCormack, The New Republic, 23 Nov. 2022 Few of those positive connotations survive today, and yet the resurgent nostalgia for dumb technologies is often spurred by a not entirely modern desire to distance oneself from the bustle of the polis and the frenzied commerce of the agora. Wired, 28 July 2022 Unlike your small polis, our larger and anonymous modern democracies use enforceable laws and contracts to be more impartial and spread benefits to more people. Mark Shiffman, Harper’s Magazine , 16 Mar. 2022 Upon its defeat, the once-great polis fell under the tyrannical control of Sparta. Frank Holmes, Forbes, 7 Mar. 2022 Shadow puppets fill in the ancient Greek backstory involving a fellow named Thaddeus, who markets water in disposable vases that the polis can’t get enough of. Los Angeles Times, 22 Apr. 2021 Her political ideal is the Greek space of the polis, or city-state. Lauren Markham, Harper's Magazine, 16 Mar. 2021

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

Word History



borrowed from Greek pólis "citadel, city, community of citizens, city-state" — more at police entry 1

Noun combining form

borrowed from Greek, combining form of pólis "citadel, city, community of citizens, city-state" — more at police entry 1

First Known Use


1884, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of polis was in 1884

Dictionary Entries Near polis

Cite this Entry

“Polis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polis. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on polis

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!