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

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 Post-Presidency Profits: Mr. Trump is melding business with politics, capitalizing for personal gain. New York Times, 22 May 2022 What the county council did last year in firing our Health Commissioner without cause poisoned a non-political job with politics and put the public health of all Harford County residents at risk. Baltimore Sun, 17 May 2022 Ukraine’s entries, in particular, have been ripe with politics, said Vaughan Staples, the president of the UK chapter of OGAE, an international Eurovision fan club. Samanth Subramanian, Quartz, 12 May 2022 Ricketts, whose father founded TD Ameritrade and whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, unsuccessfully sought to keep Trump from the White House in 2016 and, more recently, from playing in his state’s politics. Philip Elliott, Time, 11 May 2022 Tim James thought he was finished with politics 12 years ago after barely missing a runoff in the Alabama governor’s race. Mike Cason | Mcason@al.com, al, 11 May 2022 That debut album, recorded in October ’68 at the Grande Ballroom, was the first of three records from the combustible quintet with the left-wing firebrand politics. Brian Mccollum, Detroit Free Press, 5 May 2022 The road ahead is paved with difficult, if not impossible, politics. Nicholas Florko, STAT, 4 May 2022 The handful of states with divided politics are up for grabs. Lindsay Whitehurst, Chicago Tribune, 4 May 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of politics was circa 1529

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Last Updated

25 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Politics.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/politics. Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for politics


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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