[ pol-uh-see ]
/ ˈpɒl ə si /
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See synonyms for: policy / policies on Thesaurus.com

noun, plural pol·i·cies.
a definite course of action adopted for the sake of expediency, facility, etc.: We have a new company policy.
a course of action adopted and pursued by a government, ruler, political party, etc.: our nation's foreign policy.
action or procedure conforming to or considered with reference to prudence or expediency: It was good policy to consent.
prudence or expediency; shrewdness: Showing great policy, he pitted his enemies against one another.
Rare. government; polity.
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Origin of policy

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English policie “art of government, government, civil administration,” from Middle French, from Latin polītīa polity


policy , polity

Other definitions for policy (2 of 2)

[ pol-uh-see ]
/ ˈpɒl ə si /

noun, plural pol·i·cies.
a document embodying a contract of insurance.
a method of gambling in which bets are made on numbers to be drawn by lottery.

Origin of policy

First recorded in 1555–65; from Middle French police “written proof, documentary evidence,” (from Italian polizza, from Medieval Latin apodissa, apodīxa “receipt, security,” ultimately from Greek apódeixis “a showing or setting forth”; see apodictic, -sis) + -y3
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does policy mean?

Policy most commonly refers to a rule or plan of action, especially an official one adopted and followed by a group, organization, or government.

Policy is most commonly used in the context of laws (government policy), a country’s course of action toward others (foreign policy), and the standards or rules that all members of an organization must follow (such as company policy and school policy). Policy also has several other meanings, including an insurance contract.

Example: Management encourages carpooling, but they haven’t made it an official company policy yet.

Where does policy come from?

The first records of policy in English come from the second half of the 1300s. It comes from the Middle English term policie, meaning “government” or “civil administration.” That word was derived from the Latin polītīa, meaning “polity,” a politically united group of any kind. The Latin polītīa is the basis of many related words, including politics and police.

Policies come in many forms, and the singular term policy can refer to a single rule or to a set of rules. In most cases, policy refers to an official rule or plan of action, as in It is university policy not to allow freshmen to have cars on campus. Company policy determines what employees can and cannot do. Government policies might apply to certain government workers or they might extend to all citizens, depending on whether the policy is a rule of a particular department or a law. In politics, a politician’s policies are the plans and rules that they propose or have enacted, as in He talks a lot about his governing style, but what are his actual policies? 

Policies aren’t always official, though. Sometimes, they’re personal, as in It’s my policy never to kiss on the first date. While it may not be official in any way, policy in this context still refers to a general rule or plan of action that one follows. A more specific use of policy is in the insurance field. An insurance policy is the contract between the insurance company and its client, typically stating what kind of events get covered. This sense of policy has a different origin—it derives from the Greek word apódeixis, meaning “demonstration” or “proof.”

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What are some other forms related to policy?

  • policies (plural)

What are some synonyms for policy?

What are some words that share a root or word element with policy


What are some words that often get used in discussing policy?


How is policy used in real life?

Policy is commonly used in the context of government policy or the policies of organizations like companies and schools.



Try using policy!

Is policy used correctly in the following sentence?

As a part of our company policy, you are not allowed to take phone calls while on the clock unless it is an emergency.

How to use policy in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for policy (1 of 2)

/ (ˈpɒlɪsɪ) /

noun plural -cies
a plan of action adopted or pursued by an individual, government, party, business, etc
wisdom, prudence, shrewdness, or sagacity
Scot (often plural) the improved grounds surrounding a country house

Word Origin for policy

C14: from Old French policie, from Latin polītīa administration, polity

British Dictionary definitions for policy (2 of 2)

/ (ˈpɒlɪsɪ) /

noun plural -cies
a document containing a contract of insurance

Word Origin for policy

C16: from Old French police certificate, from Old Italian polizza, from Latin apodixis proof, from Greek apodeixis demonstration, proof
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