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 And, as such, we are connected to pain and injustice … and to politics. Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, "Politics and sports are forever intertwined; MLB pulling All-Star Game latest example," 4 Apr. 2021 Unfortunately, though, the laws of geophysics are indifferent to politics. Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, "Biden’s Jobs Plan Is Also a Climate Plan. Will It Make a Difference?," 4 Apr. 2021 The insurgents, who trace their roots to communist politics in the 1960s, use violence against the state in the name of championing the cause of India’s poor and marginalized. New York Times, "Maoist Insurgents Kill 23 Indian Forces in Ambush, Officials Say," 4 Apr. 2021 But by the time of the climate summit Biden is hosting on Earth Day (April 22), the U.S.’ commitment is likely to amount to a whole bunch of proposals that, in the eyes of other countries, could or could not become reality based on U.S. politics. Abby Smith, Washington Examiner, "Daily on Energy: The timing problem for Biden’s Paris climate pitch," 2 Apr. 2021 Tufts said Scripps saw an opportunity in Court TV as cable news channels like CNN, which once feasted on high-profile court cases such as the Casey Anthony murder trial, shifted more to politics over the decade. Stephen Battaglio Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Derek Chauvin trial brings Court TV to a new generation," 1 Apr. 2021 Tufts said Scripps saw an opportunity in Court TV as cable news channels like CNN, which once feasted on high-profile court cases such as the Casey Anthony murder trial, shifted more to politics over the decade. Stephen Battaglio, chicagotribune.com, "Derek Chauvin trial brings Court TV to a new generation," 1 Apr. 2021 And this boorish behavior is by no means limited to politics. Robert Gehrke, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Robert Gehrke: How Salt Lake County Republicans failed women within their ranks," 31 Mar. 2021 Zimmerman’s book takes a wide view of these stories and their history, linking the ancient past to modern politics. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "Why So Many Mythological Monsters Are Female," 31 Mar. 2021

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

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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Time Traveler for politics

Time Traveler

The first known use of politics was circa 1529

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Statistics for politics

Last Updated

7 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Politics.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/politics. Accessed 17 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for politics



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

Nglish: Translation of politics for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of politics for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about politics

Comments on politics

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