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[pol-i-tiks] /ˈpɒl ɪ tɪks/
noun, (used with a singular or plural verb)
the science or art of political government.
the practice or profession of conducting political affairs.
political affairs:
The advocated reforms have become embroiled in politics.
political methods or maneuvers:
We could not approve of his politics in winning passage of the bill.
political principles or opinions:
We avoided discussion of religion and politics. His politics are his own affair.
use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control, as in business, university, etc.
(initial capital letter, italics) a treatise (4th century b.c.) by Aristotle, dealing with the structure, organization, and administration of the state, especially the city-state as known in ancient Greece.
play politics,
  1. to engage in political intrigue, take advantage of a political situation or issue, resort to partisan politics, etc.; exploit a political system or political relationships.
  2. to deal with people in an opportunistic, manipulative, or devious way, as for job advancement.
Origin of politics
First recorded in 1520-30; See origin at politic, -ics
Related forms
antipolitics, adjective
propolitics, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for play politics
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • We had best be prepared and not play politics or baseball or anything.

  • Everybody must "moral-crusade," "agitate," "press-agent," play politics.

    The Behavior of Crowds Everett Dean Martin
  • One of the things I have noticed about you is your utter inability to play politics.

    The "Genius" Theodore Dreiser
  • The only way to play politics, whatever you're for, is to learn the game first.

    In the Arena Booth Tarkington
  • They will find the fellows that play politics play the game well,' and so rattled on this man Eagle.

  • Boulanger began at once to play politics and catered to the advanced parties, who adopted him as their own.

  • So young Siebold can afford to play politics and insure a following, which nobody, even the professors, can stop.

    Radio Boys Loyalty Wayne Whipple
  • "It seems to me from what I hear that you want to play politics instead of comedies," said Florine, suddenly appearing.

    A Daughter of Eve Honore de Balzac
British Dictionary definitions for play politics


(functioning as sing) the practice or study of the art and science of forming, directing, and administrating states and other political units; the art and science of government; political science
(functioning as sing) the complex or aggregate of relationships of people in society, esp those relationships involving authority or power
(functioning as pl) political activities or affairs: party politics
(functioning as sing) the business or profession of politics
(functioning as singular or pl) any activity concerned with the acquisition of power, gaining one's own ends, etc: company politics are frequently vicious
(functioning as pl) opinions, principles, sympathies, etc, with respect to politics: his conservative politics
(functioning as pl)
  1. the policy-formulating aspects of government as distinguished from the administrative, or legal
  2. the civil functions of government as distinguished from the military
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for play politics



1520s, "science of government," from politic (adj.), modeled on Aristotle's ta politika "affairs of state," the name of his book on governing and governments, which was in English mid-15c. as "Polettiques." Also see -ics.

Politicks is the science of good sense, applied to public affairs, and, as those are forever changing, what is wisdom to-day would be folly and perhaps, ruin to-morrow. Politicks is not a science so properly as a business. It cannot have fixed principles, from which a wise man would never swerve, unless the inconstancy of men's view of interest and the capriciousness of the tempers could be fixed. [Fisher Ames (1758-1808)]
Meaning "a person's political allegiances or opinions" is from 1769.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with play politics

play politics

Act for personal or political gain rather than principle, as in I don't think this judge is fair—he's playing politics. [ Mid-1800s ]


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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