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 Reuters/Amit Dave Female voters may be coming out in never-seen-before numbers in India, but politics is still not a burning passion for most. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "Most Indian women still have no freedom to get involved in politics," 20 Nov. 2019 Some call it the 'my way or the highway' approach to politics. CBS News, "The five big things you need to understand about the Democratic primary right now," 8 Nov. 2019 The latter are often loyal to Alex Salmond, who led the party for most of the time between 1990 and 2014, and whose approach to politics was considerably more abrasive and divisive than Ms Sturgeon’s. The Economist, "Another Scottish referendum beckons—and this time the nationalists may win," 17 Oct. 2019 But their teams argue that despite these broad similarities, Sanders and Warren are actually quite different in their approach to politics. Andrew Prokop, Vox, "CNN announces the nightly matchups for the second Democratic debate," 19 July 2019 If the Trump follies have lowered the bar to the point where a return to Obama-era politics is all that’s politically possible, then significantly slowing the rise of the planet’s temperature by federal action will remain difficult. Bill Mckibben, The New Yorker, "Why Donald Trump Suddenly Decided to Talk About the Environment," 9 July 2019 Some folks say politics is dirty, but politics is a noble profession. al, "Fatherly advice for Montgomery’s first black mayor: ‘Give your service but never your soul’," 13 Nov. 2019 But today, politics is one thing people on Sunset Drive can’t ignore, as the street is adjacent to the site of the fourth Democratic presidential debate. Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland, "Westerville officials have high hopes for presidential debate, but residents offer mixed opinions," 15 Oct. 2019 Siddiqui, who is also a CNN political analyst, will start at WSJ on September 23 as a politics reporter covering 2020. Brian Stelter, CNN, "Where is Trump getting his bogus info about Dorian and Alabama?," 5 Sep. 2019

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

1 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Politics.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/politics. Accessed 5 December 2019.

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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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