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 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 Jeremy Pelzer, a politics reporter for Cleveland.com, points to Gov. Mike DeWine's pro-gun stance as a potential barrier. Brian Pascus, CBS News, "Mass shooting in Ohio puts spotlight on state's elected officials to enact gun reforms," 5 Aug. 2019 Christal Hayes is a politics reporter for USA TODAY. Christal Hayes, Indianapolis Star, "Nancy Pelosi: Susan Brooks' retirement 'a real loss to the Republicans'," 14 June 2019 Growing up in the '70s, just years after the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and civil rights activists Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers, Tamron notes that politics is life — and there's no magic hatch to escape it. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Tamron Hall's Comeback Is Finally Here — And It Was Worth the Wait," 4 Sep. 2019 In this case, politics is in the eye of the beholder. Clarence Page, chicagotribune.com, "Column: No, the Obamas’ Netflix movie isn’t political, unless you want it to be," 23 Aug. 2019 Like Pronto Pups and Sweet Martha’s Cookies, politics is a yearly ritual at the Fair. Ryan Faircloth, Twin Cities, "Presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar to visit Minnesota State Fair," 21 Aug. 2019 Identity may not be political, but politics is always personal. Tyrone Beason / Columnist, The Seattle Times, "It’s not ‘identity politics,’ it’s just who we are. Let’s vote that way," 22 Oct. 2018 The pool of people who feel comfortable yelling at you about politics has expanded from just constituents to the entire country — everyone. NBC News, "They're telling us there's a chance: Why the debate nonqualifiers won't quit (yet)," 12 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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Statistics for politics

Last Updated

3 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for politics

The first known use of politics was circa 1529

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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

Comments on politics

What made you want to look up politics? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


not being in agreement or harmony

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