Etymology 1Edit

From Middle French policie, from Late Latin politia ‎(citizenship; government), classical Latin polītīa (in Cicero), from Ancient Greek πολιτεία ‎(politeía, citizenship; polis, (city) state; government), from πολίτης ‎(polítēs, citizen). Compare police.


policy ‎(plural policies)

  1. (obsolete) The art of governance; political science. [14th–18th c.]
    • a. 1616, William Shakespeare, Henry V, I.1:
      List his discourse of Warre; and you shall heare / A fearefull Battaile rendred you in Musique. / Turne him to any Cause of Pollicy, / The Gordian Knot of it he will vnloose, / Familiar as his Garter []
  2. (obsolete) A state; a polity. [14th–16th c.]
  3. (obsolete) A set political system; civil administration. [15th–19th c.]
  4. (obsolete) A trick; a stratagem. [15th–19th c.]
    • a. 1594, William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus:
      'Tis pollicie, and stratageme must doe / That you affect, and so must you resolue, / That what you cannot as you would atcheiue, / You must perforce accomplish as you may.
  5. A principle of behaviour, conduct etc. thought to be desirable or necessary, especially as formally expressed by a government or other authoritative body. [from 15th c.]
    The Communist Party has a policy of returning power to the workers.
  6. Wise or advantageous conduct; prudence, formerly also with connotations of craftiness. [from 15th c.]
    • 1813, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Modern Library Edition (1995), page 140:
      These bitter accusations might have been suppressed, had I with greater policy concealed my struggles, and flattered you []
    • Fuller
      The very policy of a hostess, finding his purse so far above his clothes, did detect him.
  7. (now rare) Specifically, political shrewdness or (formerly) cunning; statecraft. [from 15th c.]
    • 1946, Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy, I.25:
      Whether he believed himself a god, or only took on the attributes of divinity from motives of policy, is a question for the psychologist, since the historical evidence is indecisive.
  8. (Scotland, now chiefly in the plural) The grounds of a large country house. [from 18th c.]
    • 1955, Robin Jenkins, The Cone-Gatherers, Canongate 2012, page 36:
      Next morning was so splendid that as he walked through the policies towards the mansion house despair itself was lulled.
  9. (obsolete) Motive; object; inducement.
    • Sir Philip Sidney
      What policy have you to bestow a benefit where it is counted an injury?
Derived termsEdit


policy ‎(third-person singular simple present policies, present participle policying, simple past and past participle policied)

  1. (transitive) To regulate by laws; to reduce to order.
    • Francis Bacon
      Policying of cities.

Etymology 2Edit

From Middle French police, from Italian polizza, from Medieval Latin apodissa ‎(receipt for money), from Ancient Greek ἀπόδειξις ‎(apódeixis, proof, declaration)


policy ‎(plural policies)

  1. A contract of insurance
    • Your insurance policy covers fire and theft only.
  2. (obsolete) An illegal daily lottery in late nineteenth and early twentieth century USA on numbers drawn from a lottery wheel (no plural)
  3. A number pool lottery
Derived termsEdit
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