pro·​pa·​gan·​da ˌprä-pə-ˈgan-də How to pronounce propaganda (audio)
capitalized : a congregation of the Roman curia having jurisdiction over missionary territories and related institutions
: the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person
: ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause
also : a public action having such an effect

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The History of Propaganda

Propaganda is today most often used in reference to political statements, but the word comes to our language through its use in a religious context. The Congregatio de propaganda fide (“Congregation for propagating the faith”) was an organization established in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV as a means of furthering Catholic missionary activity. The word propaganda is from the ablative singular feminine of propogandus, which is the gerundive of the Latin propagare, meaning “to propagate.” The first use of the word propaganda (without the rest of the Latin title) in English was in reference to this Catholic organization. It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that it began to be used as a term denoting ideas or information that are of questionable accuracy as a means of advancing a cause.

Example Sentences

She didn't buy into the propaganda of her day that women had to be soft and submissive. Maria Shriver, Time, 26 Oct. 2009 They see all clear thinking, all sense of reality, and all fineness of living, threatened on every side by propaganda, by advertisement, by film and television. C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, (1961) 2009 We've so bought into the mass delusion, the nutty propaganda, that now the ideal American family is one that's on steroids … Anna Quindlen, Newsweek, 27 Apr. 2009 … just propaganda for a mode of life no one could live without access to the very impulse-suppressing, nostalgia-provoking drugs they don't want you to have … Richard Ford, Independence Day, 1995 He was accused of spreading propaganda. The report was nothing but lies and propaganda. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Teachers risked their lives to offer classes online to students, an alternative to the Russian propaganda offered in their schools. Samantha Schmidt, Washington Post, 22 Nov. 2022 Teachers risked their lives to offer classes online to students, an alternative to the Russian propaganda offered in their schools. Michael E. Miller And Samantha Schmidt, Anchorage Daily News, 22 Nov. 2022 This level of abstraction, which repurposes a metaphor from Nazi propaganda, is hard to imagine being effective in any other medium. Hillary Chute, The Atlantic, 21 Nov. 2022 Like neighboring Germany, Austria passed a law after World War Two banning the Nazi party and spreading Nazi propaganda as well as various symbols of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich including the straight-arm salute. Fox News, 15 Nov. 2022 As the Middle East grew in strategic importance, the Foreign Office became especially concerned by Italy’s transmission of fascist propaganda in Arabic. Dominic Green, WSJ, 11 Nov. 2022 The outbreaks were fueled by low rates of child vaccination against the virus, the product of anti-vaccination propaganda that was sometimes distributed by officials in states such as Florida. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 8 Nov. 2022 The record was really more of a tool to use for…maybe propaganda is the best word…to keep pushing forward with this new band. Andy Greene, Rolling Stone, 2 Nov. 2022 But much like imperfect propaganda, the dispatches hold glimmers of real life: tension among colleagues, abuse from bosses, reprimands from party superiors. Katherine Eban, ProPublica, 28 Oct. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'propaganda.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


New Latin, from Congregatio de propaganda fide Congregation for propagating the faith, organization established by Pope Gregory XV †1623

First Known Use

1668, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of propaganda was in 1668

Dictionary Entries Near propaganda

Cite this Entry

“Propaganda.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



pro·​pa·​gan·​da ˌpräp-ə-ˈgan-də How to pronounce propaganda (audio)
: an organized spreading of certain ideas
also : the ideas spread in this way
propagandist noun or adjective
propagandistic adjective
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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