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 As a newcomer to politics, Yang spent the early months of his campaign appearing on prominent podcasts, including Freakanomics and The Joe Rogan experience. Holly Bailey, Washington Post, "Andrew Yang launches new nonprofit and ponders a presidential endorsement," 5 Mar. 2020 Generally speaking, politics is a hostile sphere for everyone, regardless of gender. Emma Grey Ellis, Wired, "Greta Thunberg's Online Attackers Reveal a Grim Pattern," 4 Mar. 2020 Buttigieg offered moderate alternative On the campaign trial, Buttigieg offered a more pragmatic approach to politics than Sanders. Chris Sikich, Indianapolis Star, "'Today is a moment of truth:' Buttigieg abruptly ends presidential bid," 1 Mar. 2020 Yet Trump’s messaging, like so much else about his approach to politics, is contradictory. Maggie Haberman, BostonGlobe.com, "On Trump’s to-do list: Take back the suburbs. Court Black voters. Expand the electoral map. Win.," 8 Feb. 2020 Humanity First will push for Yang’s politics in conferences and through a podcast with the former Democratic presidential candidate tentatively titled Let Yang Speak. Tim Pearce, Washington Examiner, "Andrew Yang announces next step after failed presidential bid," 5 Mar. 2020 Orwell was a political writer, but the exact nature of his politics is disputed. John J. Miller, National Review, "George Orwell’s Unclassifiable Politics," 5 Mar. 2020 At the end of the day, politics comes down to a push-and-pull system of knowing how to work with people to achieve larger objectives. Lily Herman, Teen Vogue, "Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden Need to Shift Their Campaign Strategies to Win," 4 Mar. 2020 And in my view, old-fashioned politics, the same old, same old type of politics that doesn't excite anybody, that doesn't energize anybody, that is not going to be the campaign that beats Trump. ABC News, "'This Week' Transcript 3-1-20:​ Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Alex Azar," 1 Mar. 2020

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

Greek politika, from neuter plural of politikos political

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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

23 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Politics.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/politics. Accessed 1 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for politics


How to pronounce politics (audio)

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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on politics

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with politics

Spanish Central: Translation of 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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