pol·​i·​tics | \ ˈpä-lə-ˌtiks How to pronounce politics (audio) \

Essential Meaning of politics

1 : activities that relate to influencing the actions and policies of a government or getting and keeping power in a government He is an important figure in American politics. The students discussed the latest news in national/local politics. Politics has always interested her. = She's always been interested in politics.
2 : the work or job of people (such as elected officials) who are part of a government Politics is a competitive profession. She plans on going into politics. = She plans on entering politics. [=she plans on getting a job that involves politics]
3 : the opinions that someone has about what should be done by governments : a person's political thoughts and opinions She has changed her politics. His politics are very liberal/conservative. [=he believes that governments should be liberal/conservative]

Full 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

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 Cheney declines and instead accepts a post as vice president at Bradley, Woods and Company, a Washington investment firm that counsels corporate clients on politics and federal policy. CNN, 19 Jan. 2022 Even in places such as North Dakota, where supply and demand align with clean energy, culture and politics pose major obstacles. Joshua Partlow, Anchorage Daily News, 18 Jan. 2022 Sometimes Newton’s Third Law, that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, can apply to politics and pandemics. Bryan Schott, The Salt Lake Tribune, 18 Jan. 2022 By the time the news passes through the meatgrinder of polarized politics and paralyzed government, there’s just a day or two left for humanity to accept its fate. Mark Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 14 Jan. 2022 The Oregon Capital Chronicle, founded in 2021, is a nonprofit news organization that strives to deliver deep and useful reporting on Oregon state government, politics and policy. oregonlive, 13 Jan. 2022 In addition, Riyadh and, to a lesser extent, Abu Dhabi are concerned about Iranian proxy Hezbollah’s ongoing domination of Lebanese politics and state institutions. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, 13 Jan. 2022 Our execution problems are many because American sanctions are almost always applied for reasons of domestic politics and chauvinism, not hard-nosed foreign policy. Ryan Cooper, The Week, 12 Jan. 2022 During a December media roundtable, Whitmer ridiculed the idea that politics or fear are driving her pandemic decisions. Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press, 11 Jan. 2022

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.

See More

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

Learn More About politics

Time Traveler for politics

Time Traveler

The first known use of politics was circa 1529

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near politics




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for politics

Last Updated

25 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Politics.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/politics. Accessed 26 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for politics


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.

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!