noun, plural in form but singular or plural in construction pol·i·tics \ ˈpä-lə-ˌtiks \
|Updated on: 14 Jul 2018

Definition of politics

1 a : 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
3 a : 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
5 a : 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

Recent Examples of politics from the Web

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.

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.”

Origin and Etymology of politics

Greek politika, from neuter plural of politikos political

POLITICS Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of politics for English Language Learners

  • : 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 Defined for Kids


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

Definition of politics for Students

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.

Word Root of politics

The Greek word polis, meaning “city” or “community,” and the related word polītēs, meaning “citizen,” give us the roots polis and polit. Words from Greek polis and polītēs have something to do with cities or communities or the citizens who live in them. A metropolis is the most important city in an area. The police are a group that enforces the law so as to protect citizens. Politics is the science and art of governing citizens.

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