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.

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.)


    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

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

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. 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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