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

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 In this week's episode of The Gaggle, a politics podcast by The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com, hosts Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Ron Hansen are joined by pollster Paul Bentz. Amanda Luberto, The Arizona Republic, 11 May 2022 His Fed choices have faced an unusual level of partisan opposition, given the Fed's history as an independent agency that seeks to remain above politics. Christopher Rugaber, Detroit Free Press, 11 May 2022 The 88-year-old had a decorated career in Ukraine’s politics, first helping push for its independence from the Soviet Union. Lawrence Richard, Fox News, 11 May 2022 Heather Knight is a columnist working out of City Hall and covering everything from politics to homelessness to family flight and the quirks of living in one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle, 11 May 2022 Factors like politics play in too; Gallup found that Republicans and Democrats differ in their estimates of the percent of Covid cases that result in hospitalization. Lila Thulin, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 May 2022 Beck, who previously covered politics and the state legislature for the Alabama Daily News, starts June 1. Claire Rafford, The Indianapolis Star, 10 May 2022 The Rajapaksa family has dominated Sri Lankan politics for over two decades. Hannah Ritchie, CNN, 10 May 2022 In Chinese Communist Party politics, the leader can never be wrong on anything, so Mr. Xi can’t be seen to be changing his zero-Covid policy—at least not until the 20th Party Congress in November has concluded and Mr. Xi is safely reappointed. Kevin Rudd, WSJ, 10 May 2022 See More

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.

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

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The first known use of politics was circa 1529

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Last Updated

13 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Politics.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/politics. Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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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


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