po·​lis | \ ˈpä-ləs How to pronounce polis (audio) \
plural poleis\ ˈpä-​ˌlās How to pronounce polis (audio) \

Definition of polis

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a Greek city-state broadly : a state or society especially when characterized by a sense of community

Definition of -polis (Entry 2 of 2)

: city megalopolis

Examples of polis in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 Placed around the polis, these statues, depicting nude young men, served as a living symbol for the ideal citizen. Autumn Wright, Wired, 16 Jan. 2021 As the locus of masculinity in Ancient Greece, the 17- to 18-year-old boy becomes an ephebe after shaving his first beard and beginning a requisite two years of military service for the polis. Autumn Wright, Wired, 16 Jan. 2021 If everything in Athens concerns the public and the polis, then Eleusis, 13 miles to the east, concerns a transformation that is private and outside of politics. New York Times, 28 Apr. 2020 Parallels with today This account of the Greek polis shows us that the protection of the body of the city-state depended on the sacrifice of the socially downtrodden, which has parallels with the situation today. Candida Moss, The Conversation, 23 Mar. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'polis.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of polis


1884, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for polis


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

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Cite this Entry

“Polis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polis. Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on polis

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about polis


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