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Borrowed from French idéologie, from idéo- +‎ -logie (equivalent to English ideo- +‎ -logy). Coined 1796 by Antoine Destutt de Tracy.[1][2] Modern sense of “doctrine” attributed to use of related idéologue (ideologue) by Napoleon Bonaparte as a term of abuse towards political opponents in early 1800s.



ideology (countable and uncountable, plural ideologies)

  1. Doctrine, philosophy, body of beliefs or principles belonging to an individual or group.
    A dictatorship, in order to secure its reign, bans things that do not conform to its ideology.
    • 2014 November 17, Roger Cohen, “The horror! The horror! The trauma of ISIS [print version: International New York Times, 18 November 2014, p. 9]”, in The New York Times[1]:
      What is unbearable, in fact, is the feeling, 13 years after 9/11, that America has been chasing its tail; that, in some whack-a-mole horror show, the quashing of a jihadi enclave here only spurs the sprouting of another there; that the ideology of Al Qaeda is still reverberating through a blocked Arab world whose Sunni-Shia balance (insofar as that went) was upended by the American invasion of Iraq.
  2. (uncountable) The study of the origin and nature of ideas.

Usage notesEdit

Original meaning “study of ideas” (following the etymology), today primarily used to mean “doctrine”. For example “communist ideology” generally refers to “communist doctrine”; study of communist ideas instead being “communist philosophy”, or more clearly “philosophy of communism”; only rarely “ideology of communism”.

Derived termsEdit



  1. ^ Kennedy, Emmet (1979) “Ideology” from Destutt De Tracy to Marx, Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 40, No. 3 (Jul.–Sep., 1979), pp. 353–368
  2. ^ Hart, David M. (2002) Destutt De Tracy: Annotated Bibliography

Further readingEdit