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 As teammates sleep nearby, Green and Curry discuss everything from parenting to politics to business endeavors. Connor Letourneau, SFChronicle.com, "Why Warriors’ Draymond Green is a master at unlocking Steph Curry’s greatness," 5 Jan. 2021 The Democratic challengers, Jon Ossoff and the Reverend Raphael Warnock, are both newcomers to politics. The New Yorker, "Georgia’s Senate Runoff Elections: Live Updates," 5 Jan. 2021 Résumé high points: McGuire is a total newcomer to city politics. Caroline Spivack, Curbed, "Here’s Everyone Running for New York City Mayor (So Far)," 4 Jan. 2021 Their influence expanded to presidential politics this cycle, beginning in the Democratic primary race. Matt Stevens, New York Times, "Asian-American Voters Can Help Decide Elections. But for Which Party?," 3 Jan. 2021 Warnock’s message taps into a long tradition of activism in Savannah’s Black church, which includes crossing over from the pulpit to politics. Timothy Pratt, The New Republic, "Can Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock Make History?," 28 Dec. 2020 The culture section of Vogue encompasses a wide range of coverage; from cinema, to theater, to books, to politics, to the coronavirus pandemic and protests for racial justice. Vogue, "The Top 10 Most-Read Culture Stories of 2020," 27 Dec. 2020 America has always known incidents of political violence — or incidents of violence broadly related to politics — even apart from our civil war. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, "The Great American Divorce?," 21 Dec. 2020 On Full Frontal, for example, Bee hosted tongue-in-cheek segments, including one on whether Trump could read, that treated the candidate as a goofy outlier to actual politics. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, "What Will Late-Night TV Do After Trump?," 17 Dec. 2020

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

13 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Politics.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/politics. Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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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

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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