Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Doctrinaire

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is doctrinaire. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Doctrinaire is a formal word that means “stubbornly or excessively devoted to a doctrine or theory without regard to practical considerations.” It is often used disapprovingly to describe a person who has very strong beliefs about what should be done and who will not change those beliefs or accept other people’s opinions.

// They were pleased by the shift in leadership, as their old mayor was extremely doctrinaire.


“[The art exhibition,] In the Black Fantastic is a magnificent experience, spectacular from first to last. … The premise is succinct: to unite artists from the African diaspora who use fantasy, myth and fiction to address racism and injustice. Apposite literary quotations appear on the walls, from Frantz Fanon and others. But there is nothing theoretical or doctrinaire about the work.” — Laura Cumming, The Guardian (London), 3 July 2022

Did You Know?

The noun doctrine refers to a set of ideas or beliefs that are taught or believed to be true, and is often used specifically for the principles on which a government or religion may be based. Its adjectival form, doctrinal (“of, relating, or preoccupied with doctrine”), as in “doctrinal teachings,” is straightforward and not particularly judgmental. Doctrinaire, however, describes someone who is rigidly and impractically devoted to a doctrine. This critical connotation comes from the word’s history in post-revolutionary France as a name for members of a group of constitutional monarchists led by statesman and philosopher Pierre Paul Royer-Collard. Royer-Collard’s doctrine was opposed by both ultraroyalists and revolutionists, and he was given the nickname “doctrinaire,” which was later capitalized and extended to his colleagues, thereafter known as the Doctrinaires.

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