pol·​i·​tics | \ ˈpä-lə-ˌtiks \

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

Pelosi’s closest allies have never maintained that her great strength in politics is as a stump speaker or a high-energy television presence. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "House Democrats don’t need a leader, they need someone to represent them on TV," 20 Nov. 2018 What matters to today’s politics is that the bases of the two parties see it much differently. Ezra Klein, Vox, "A new theory for why Republicans and Democrats see the world differently," 18 Dec. 2018 The View ladies know — perhaps more than anyone — that talking about politics, religion, and all other non-dinner-party topics can get personal. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Joy Behar Opens Up About Hurt Feelings and Tension on 'The View'," 10 Dec. 2018 About 300 million people around the world use Quora at least once a month to ask and answer questions about politics, faith, calculus, unrequited love, the meaning of life and more; by comparison, Twitter claims 326 million monthly active users. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: The one about Netflix’s $100 million ‘Friends’ deal," 5 Dec. 2018 Max Weber wrote that politics is work that requires humility and care because the exercise of power over others puts your own soul at risk. Steve Israel, chicagotribune.com, "What's the greatest book about politics? Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich and others weigh in.," 12 July 2018 All of this a good reminder that politics and religion don't mix -- especially in Washington. Ed O'keefe, CBS News, "Congress fights over House chaplain's ouster," 27 Apr. 2018 The Summit brings together leaders in business, politics, sports and media to inspire the next generation of women leaders and help them advance to the C-suite. Lynne Doughtie, USA TODAY, "6 things companies can do to help women rise to the top," 29 June 2018 Across history, says curator Jayson Kerr Dobney, music has played a vital role in politics, religion and diplomacy. Alexandra Wolfe, WSJ, "High Notes: Musical Instruments Over Millennia," 23 Mar. 2018

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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Statistics for politics

Last Updated

13 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for politics

The first known use of politics was circa 1529

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More Definitions for politics

politics

noun

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

politics

noun plural
pol·​i·​tics | \ ˈpä-lə-ˌtiks \

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

Comments on politics

What made you want to look up politics? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

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