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 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, "A Writer Pursues His Subjects as a Hunter Stalks His Prey," 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, "Ancient Greeks purged city-states of disease as they would a human body – and it was the most vulnerable that suffered," 23 Mar. 2020 This was a radical, even senseless, statement, since the Greeks considered citizenship possible only through the polis, or city. Rich Lowry, National Review, "The Treason of the Elites," 24 Oct. 2019 With the farming left to the second class or the subjugated, full citizens were free to participate in a unique military culture that made Sparta the most formidable polis in Hellas. Steele Brand, Time, "What Ancient Rome and Greece Can Teach Us About the Modern American Military," 20 Sep. 2019 Writing at the end of the first century, the Jewish historian Josephus described how the small fishing village of Bethsaida became a Greco-Roman city, or polis, during the reign of Philip the Tetrarch in A.D. 30. National Geographic, "The Real Story Behind the "House of Jesus' Apostles" Discovery," 7 Aug. 2017 In politics, how one leads the polis and how one manages the machinery of government are two distinct phenomena. Douglas Hess, Fortune, "Why Trump’s Management Style Doesn’t Work," 28 July 2017

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.

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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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Time Traveler for polis

Time Traveler

The first known use of polis was in 1884

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Statistics for polis

Last Updated

20 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Polis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polis. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

More from Merriam-Webster on polis

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about polis

Comments on polis

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