n. pl. police
1. (used with a pl. verb)
a. A body of government employees trained in methods of law enforcement and crime prevention and detection and authorized to maintain the peace, safety, and order of the community.
b. A body of persons with a similar organization and function: campus police. Also called police force.
2. Archaic Regulation and control of the affairs of a community, especially with respect to maintenance of order, law, health, morals, safety, and other matters affecting the public welfare.
3. Informal A group that admonishes, cautions, or reminds: grammar police; fashion police.
a. The cleaning of a military base or other military area: Police of the barracks must be completed before inspection.
b. The soldiers assigned to a specified maintenance duty.
tr.v. po·liced, po·lic·ing, po·lic·es
1. To regulate, control, or keep in order with a law enforcement agency or other official group.
a. To impose one's viewpoint or beliefs regarding, especially in an authoritarian way: policing others' comments by implementing speech codes.
b. To critique in a presumptuous or arrogant manner: policed the grammar of everyone who commented on the blog post.
3. To make (a military area, for example) neat in appearance: policed the barracks.
[French, from Old French policie, civil organization, from Late Latin polītīa, from Latin, the State, from Greek polīteia, from polītēs, citizen, from polis, city; see pelə-3 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.