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Borrowed from French idéologie, from idéo- +‎ -logie (equivalent to English ideo- +‎ -logy). Cognate with, but not derived from, idea. Coined 1796 by Antoine Destutt de Tracy.[1][2] Modern sense of “doctrine” attributed to use of related idéologue (ideologue) by Napoleon Bonaparte as a term of abuse towards political opponents in early 1800s.



ideology (countable and uncountable, plural ideologies)

  1. Doctrine, philosophy, body of beliefs or principles belonging to an individual or group.
    A dictatorship bans things, that do not conform to its ideology, to secure its reign.
    • 2014 November 17, Roger Cohen, “The horror! The horror! The trauma of ISIS [print version: International New York Times, 18 November 2014, p. 9]”, in The New York Times[1]:
      What is unbearable, in fact, is the feeling, 13 years after 9/11, that America has been chasing its tail; that, in some whack-a-mole horror show, the quashing of a jihadi enclave here only spurs the sprouting of another there; that the ideology of Al Qaeda is still reverberating through a blocked Arab world whose Sunni-Shia balance (insofar as that went) was upended by the American invasion of Iraq.
    • 2022 August 24, Nigel Harris, “Comment: Rail strikes deadlock”, in RAIL, number 964, page 3:
      Ideology constantly gets in the way. For the Government, unions are militant "Trots" out to cause political trouble. For the unions, the private sector is a grasping, evil leech. Neither is true.
  2. (uncountable) The study of the origin and nature of ideas.

Usage notes[edit]

Original meaning “study of ideas” (following the etymology), today primarily used to mean “doctrine”. For example “communist ideology” generally refers to “communist doctrine”; study of communist ideas instead being “communist philosophy”, or more clearly “philosophy of communism”; only rarely “ideology of communism”.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ Kennedy, Emmet (1979) “Ideology” from Destutt De Tracy to Marx, Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 40, No. 3 (Jul.–Sep., 1979), pp. 353–368
  2. ^ Hart, David M. (2002) Destutt De Tracy: Annotated Bibliography

Further reading[edit]