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

But after the 2016 election, politics became much more core to the series. Bryn Elise Sandberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "David Simon Plans to Tell Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to "Drop Dead" After Twitter Ban," 9 June 2018 Related stories from Miami Herald At tech conference's first day, politics took center stage. Rob Wile, miamiherald, "eMerge Americas conference is getting a new leader. The old one isn't going far.," 5 June 2018 As for the Election Commission, its reputation for staying above politics has been dented by, among other puzzling moves, a decision last October to delay voting in the state of Gujarat for several weeks. The Economist, "People in India often despair of their democracy," 31 May 2018 This kind of thinking is why so many people try to avoid arguments, especially about politics and religion. Walter Sinnott-armstrong, Time, "How to Win Every Argument," 2 July 2018 Follow @mboorstein Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a religion reporter, covering how faith intersects with politics and culture. Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post, "How women led to the dramatic rise and fall of Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson," 10 June 2018 The Raphael and Michaelangelo room is meant to capture a rare moment in Florentine history when the Medici family, the dynasty that ruled from 1434 to 1737 with a few interruptions, did not dominate the city’s politics and culture. New York Times, "The Uffizi Gallery Gathers Some Heavy Hitters in a New Room," 8 June 2018 The Warsaw ghetto battle is one of many doomed uprisings across history that have cast their influence far beyond their failures, providing inspiration to a nation’s politics and culture. Amanda Foreman, WSJ, "Undying Defeat: The Power of Failed Uprisings," 19 Apr. 2018 Homage - Turns back the clock with shout outs to eclectic moments and personalities in sports, music, politics and popular culture. Marcia Pledger, cleveland.com, "Retailers announced at $230 million Pinecrest project, opening this spring (photos)," 17 Apr. 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

3 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for politics

The first known use of politics was circa 1529

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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 \

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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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).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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