Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of doctrine


  1. A rule or principle or the law established through the repeated application of legal precedents.

Definition of doctrine


    < Middle English < Old French < Latin doctrina ("teaching, instruction, learning, knowledge") < doctor ("a teacher") < docere ("to teach"); see doctor.



doctrine (plural doctrines)

  1. A belief or tenet, especially about philosophical or theological matters.
  2. The body of teachings of a religion, or a religious leader, organization, group or text.

    The incarnation is a basic doctrine of classical Christianity.
    The four noble truths summarise the main doctrines of Buddhism.

Related terms

  • docent
  • docile
  • doctor
  • doctorate
  • doctrinaire
  • doctrinal
  • document
  • indoctrinate


  • Alphagram: cdeinort
  • centroid

Further reading

Doctrine (Latin: doctrina) is a codification of beliefs or "a body of teachings" or "instructions", taught principles or positions, as the body of teachings in a branch of knowledge or belief system. The Greek analogy is the etymology of catechism.

Often doctrine specifically connotes a corpus of religious dogma as it is promulgated by a church, but not necessarily: doctrine is also used to refer to a principle of law, in the common law traditions, established through a history of past decisions, such as the doctrine of self-defense, or the principle of fair use, or the more narrowly applicable first-sale doctrine. In some organizations, doctrine is simply defined as 'that which is taught', in other words the basis for institutional teaching of its personnel internal ways of doing business.

Legal usage

A legal doctrine is a body of inter-related rules (usually of common law and built over a long period of time) associated with a legal concept or principle. For example the doctrine of frustration of purpose now has many tests and rules applicable with regards to each other and can be contained within a 'bubble' of Frustration. In a court session a defendant may refer to the doctrine of justification.

It can be seen that a branch of law contains various doctrine, which in turn contains various rules or tests. The test of Non-occurrence of crucial event is part of the doctrine of Frustration which is part of Contract Law. Doctrines can grow into a branch of law; restitution is now considered a branch of law separate to Contract and Tort.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     lex fori
2.     landed property
3.     salacious
4.     lex situs
5.     lex causae
6.     violent crime
7.     conscionable
8.     family court
9.     leasing
10.     public liability