policy

1 of 2

noun (1)

pol·​i·​cy ˈpä-lə-sē How to pronounce policy (audio)
plural policies
often attributive
1
a
: prudence or wisdom in the management of affairs
b
: management or procedure based primarily on material interest
2
a
: a definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions
b
: a high-level overall plan embracing the general goals and acceptable procedures especially of a governmental body

policy

2 of 2

noun (2)

plural policies
1
: a writing whereby a contract of insurance is made
2
a
: a daily lottery in which participants bet that certain numbers will be drawn from a lottery wheel

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Word History

Etymology

Noun (1)

Middle English policie, pollecye "art or practice of government, system of government, commonwealth, organization or conduct of affairs, practical skill, prudence," borrowed from Anglo-French policie, pollecie "governance, system of government" (Middle French also, "a political organization, the state, conduct, behavior"), borrowed from Late Latin polītīa "citizenship, political organization, government" — more at police entry 1

Note: The term is a doublet of police entry 1; see note at that entry.

Noun (2)

earlier police, pollecy (in the phrase police/pollecy of assurance, after French pollice d'assurance), borrowed from Middle French police, pollice "certificate, written proof," probably borrowed from Italian polizza, pollizza "receipt, promissory note," alteration of apodissa, appodissa (by absorption of initial a- by the definite article and shift of -d- to a lateral), borrowed from Medieval Latin apodixa, apodissa "receipt," borrowed from Middle Greek apódeixis, going back to Greek, "making known, proof," from apodeik-, stem of apodeíknymi, apodeiknýnai "to point out, make known, prove" + -sis -sis — more at apodictic

Note: The English variant with -cy is presumably assimilation to policy entry 1, ending in a familiar suffix; it appears to have displaced police at an early date. — Middle French police has also been taken as a loan from Old Occitan polissia, itself borrowed from Italian, or directly from Medieval Latin or Greek; the editors of Trésor de la langue française reject this on grounds of the location of the earliest citations. The shift of a dental to a lateral in (apodissa > polizza) is perhaps best explained as direct borrowing into Italian from vernacular Greek, where the dental would have been a voiced interdental fricative; as Italian lacked this sound, it was transferred as an -l- (compare the etymology of pilot entry 1). This alters somewhat the path of transmission in the etymology above, perhaps removing Medieval Latin as an intermediary.

First Known Use

Noun (1)

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun (2)

1565, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of policy was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near policy

Cite this Entry

“Policy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/policy. Accessed 1 Oct. 2022.

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Kids Definition

policy 1 of 2

noun

pol·​i·​cy ˈpä-lə-sē How to pronounce policy (audio)
plural policies
: a set of guidelines or rules that determine a course of action
What is the store's return policy?

policy

2 of 2

noun

plural policies
: a document that contains the agreement made by an insurance company with a person whose life or property is insured

Legal Definition

policy 1 of 2

noun

pol·​i·​cy ˈpä-lə-sē How to pronounce policy (audio)
plural policies
: an overall plan, principle, or guideline
especially : one formulated outside of the judiciary
obligated to consider legislative policy on the matter in their decision

policy

2 of 2

noun

plural policies
: a contract of insurance
also : the written instrument of such a contract

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