pol·​i·​tics | \ ˈpä-lə-ˌtiks How to pronounce politics (audio) \

Definition of politics

1a : the art or science of government
b : the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy
c : the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government
2 : political actions, practices, or policies
3a : political affairs or business especially : competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government)
b : political life especially as a principal activity or profession
c : political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices
4 : the political opinions or sympathies of a person
5a : the total complex of relations between people living in society
b : relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view office politics ethnic politics

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Playing Politics

Politics is a multifaceted word. It has a set of fairly specific meanings that are descriptive and nonjudgmental (such as “the art or science of government” and "political principles"), but it can and often does carry a negative meaning closely related to these (“political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices”). English is a flexible language, and it is not uncommon for a word to have multiple related meanings that run the connotative gamut from good to bad. Some of these have been around for a surprisingly long time. The negative sense of politics, as seen in the phrase play politics, for example, has been in use since at least 1853, when abolitionist Wendell Phillips declared: “We do not play politics; anti-slavery is no half-jest with us.”

Examples of politics in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web For many young people interested in a career in politics, unpaid internships are a typical first step. Pauleanna Reid, Forbes, "How This Former White House Staffer Is Breaking The Glass Ceiling For Black Women In Politics," 11 May 2021 Youngkin, 54, is the former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group and has no experience in politics but has deep pockets for what could be an enormously expensive race. Washington Post, "Trump endorses GOP’s Youngkin for Virginia governor as campaign mudslinging gets underway," 11 May 2021 There’s verbal mudslinging in politics, and then there’s actual mudslinging. Los Angeles Times, "Today’s Headlines: Hearts, minds and vaccines," 10 May 2021 The anti-Oxitec contingent also says the company has been a bully in local politics. Time, "Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Have Come to the U.S. Will They Work?," 9 May 2021 These included the passing of a law against foreign interference in politics and calling for an independent international inquiry into the murky origins of the novel coronavirus. The Economist, "Australia’s debate about China is becoming hot, angry and shrill," 8 May 2021 The prominence of transgender issues in politics is remarkable considering what a tiny sliver of the population transgender people represent. New York Times, "‘This Is Politics’: Dr. Rachel Levine’s Rise as Transgender Issues Gain Prominence.," 8 May 2021 Plus, Arizona is currently home to the most distracting and strange sideshow in politics -- an audit of 2020 votes forced by Republicans in the state and run by a company called Cyber Ninjas with ties to allies of former President Donald Trump. Zachary B. Wolf, CNN, "Biden's ambitions for the country depend on this key state," 8 May 2021 Though Myers lost the election, his bid marked the beginning of his active engagement in politics. Tim Diovanni, Dallas News, "A North Texas native’s new album meditates on racism, violence, while paying homage to jazz greats," 6 May 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'politics.' 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 politics

circa 1529, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for politics

Middle English Polletiques, Polytykys, as title of Aristotle's Politics, from politik "of spiritual or secular governance, political" + -iques, -ykys -ics, after Middle French politiques, polliticques and Medieval Latin polītica, after Greek tà politiká "public matters, civic affairs," from neuter plural of politikós "of citizens, civic, of a state, political, public" — more at politic

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Time Traveler for politics

Time Traveler

The first known use of politics was circa 1529

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Statistics for politics

Last Updated

13 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Politics.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/politics. Accessed 17 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for politics



English Language Learners Definition of politics

: activities that relate to influencing the actions and policies of a government or getting and keeping power in a government
: the work or job of people (such as elected officials) who are part of a government
: the opinions that someone has about what should be done by governments : a person's political thoughts and opinions


noun plural
pol·​i·​tics | \ ˈpä-lə-ˌtiks How to pronounce politics (audio) \

Kids Definition of politics

1 : the activities, actions, and policies that are used to gain and hold power in a government or to influence a government
2 : a person's opinions about the management of government
Hint: Politics can be used as a singular or a plural in writing and speaking. Politics has always interested me. The country's politics have changed.

More from Merriam-Webster on politics

Nglish: Translation of politics for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of politics for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about politics

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