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police

[puh-lees]
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noun
  1. Also called police force. an organized civil force for maintaining order, preventing and detecting crime, and enforcing the laws.
  2. (used with a plural verb) members of such a force: Several police are patrolling the neighborhood.
  3. the regulation and control of a community, especially for the maintenance of public order, safety, health, morals, etc.
  4. the department of the government concerned with this, especially with the maintenance of order.
  5. any body of people officially maintained or employed to keep order, enforce regulations, etc.
  6. people who seek to regulate a specified activity, practice, etc.: the language police.
  7. Military. (in the U.S. Army)
    1. the cleaning and keeping clean of a camp, post, station, etc.
    2. the condition of a camp, post, station, etc., with reference to cleanliness.
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verb (used with object), po·liced, po·lic·ing.
  1. to regulate, control, or keep in order by or as if by means of police.
  2. Military. to clean and keep clean (a camp, post, etc.)
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Origin of police

1520–30; < Middle French: government, civil administration, police < Late Latin polītia citizenship, government, for Latin polītīa; see polity
Related formso·ver·po·lice, verb (used with object), o·ver·po·liced, o·ver·po·lic·ing.pre·po·lice, adjectiveself-po·lic·ing, adjectiveun·po·liced, adjectivewell-po·liced, adjective

Pronunciation note

Many English words exemplify the original stress rule of Old English and other early Germanic languages, according to which all parts of speech except unprefixed verbs were stressed on the first syllable, and prefixed verbs were stressed on the syllable immediately following the prefix. Although the scope of this rule has been greatly restricted by the incorporation into English of loanwords that exhibit other stress patterns, the rule has always remained operative to some degree, and many loanwords have been conformed to it throughout the history of English. For South Midland and Midland U.S. speakers in particular, shifting the stress in borrowed nouns from a noninitial syllable to the first syllable is still an active process, yielding [poh-lees] /ˈpoʊ lis/ for police and [dee-troit] /ˈdi trɔɪt/ for Detroit, as well as cement, cigar, guitar, insurance, umbrella, and idea said as [see-ment] /ˈsi mɛnt/, [see-gahr] /ˈsi gɑr/, [git-ahr] /ˈgɪt ɑr/, [in-shoo r-uh ns] /ˈɪn ʃʊər əns/, [uhm-brel-uh] /ˈʌm brɛl ə/, and [ahy-deeuh] /ˈaɪ diə/.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

vigilancegarrisonpoliceorganizefileformsafeguardinspectcruisesprucekeepattendwaitpreservepatrolsecureoverseedefendcoverobserve

Examples from the Web for policing

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The policing of cities for the first time became worthy of commendation.

    A History of Spain

    Charles E. Chapman

  • Games and sport alternated with drill and policing of the camp.

  • The protection of vessels was not the only reason for policing the waterways.

    The Colonial Cavalier

    Maud Wilder Goodwin

  • And so the policing of the western country from Fort Gibson went on and on.

    Fort Gibson

    Grant Foreman

  • Is it being too aggressive in policing its intellectual property?

    Makers

    Cory Doctorow


British Dictionary definitions for policing

police

noun
    1. the policethe organized civil force of a state, concerned with maintenance of law and order, the detection and prevention of crime, etc
    2. (as modifier)a police inquiry
  1. (functioning as plural) the members of such a force collectively
  2. any organized body with a similar functionsecurity police
  3. archaic
    1. the regulation and control of a community, esp in regard to the enforcement of law, the prevention of crime, etc
    2. the department of government concerned with this
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verb (tr)
  1. to regulate, control, or keep in order by means of a police or similar force
  2. to observe or record the activity or enforcement ofa committee was set up to police the new agreement on picketing
  3. US to make or keep (a military camp, etc) clean and orderly
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Word Origin

C16: via French from Latin polītīa administration, government; see polity
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

Word Origin and History for policing

police

n.

c.1530, at first essentially the same word as policy (n.1); from Middle French police (late 15c.), from Latin politia "civil administration," from Greek polis "city" (see polis).

Until mid-19c. used in England for "civil administration;" application to "administration of public order" (1716) is from French (late 17c.), and originally in English referred to France or other foreign nations. The first force so-named in England was the Marine Police, set up 1798 to protect merchandise at the Port of London. Police state "state regulated by means of national police" first recorded 1865, with reference to Austria. Police action in the international sense of "military intervention short of war, ostensibly to correct lawlessness" is from 1933. Police officer is attested from 1800. Police station is from 1817.

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police

v.

"to keep order in," 1580s, from Middle French policer, from police (see police (n.)). Meaning "to keep order by means of police" is from 1837. Related: Policed; policing.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper