con·​sti·​tu·​tion | \ ˌkän(t)-stə-ˈtü-shən How to pronounce constitution (audio) , -ˈtyü- \

Definition of constitution

1a : the basic principles and laws of a nation, state, or social group that determine the powers and duties of the government and guarantee certain rights to the people in it
b : a written instrument embodying the rules of a political or social organization
2a : the physical makeup of the individual especially with respect to the health, strength, and appearance of the body a hearty constitution
b : the structure, composition, physical makeup, or nature of something the constitution of society
3 : the mode in which a state or society is organized especially : the manner in which sovereign power is distributed
4 : an established law or custom : ordinance
5 : the act of establishing, making, or setting up before the constitution of civil laws

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Other Words from constitution

constitutionless \ ˌkän(t)-​stə-​ˈtü-​shən-​ləs How to pronounce constitution (audio) , -​ˈtyü-​ \ adjective

Examples of constitution in a Sentence

The state's constitution has strict rules about what tax money can be used for. Members of the club have drafted a new constitution. The state's original constitution is on display at the museum. He has a robust constitution. Only animals with strong constitutions are able to survive the island's harsh winters. What is the molecular constitution of the chemical?
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Recent Examples on the Web The Department of Justice sued the Alabama prison system last year, alleging that the state holds men in conditions that violate the constitution because of violence, drugs, weapons and other problems. Mike Cason |, al, 14 July 2021 Article 5 of the new policies of the CCP emphasizes adherence of religious organizations to the leadership of the CCP and its constitution, laws, regulations, ordinances, policies, and vision of socialism. Jianli Yang, National Review, 14 July 2021 An appellate court in Missouri last year ruled that the ballot initiative did not violate the state's constitution, said Chuck Hatfield, partner at Stinson law firm and one of the attorneys who brought the current suit. Tami Luhby, CNN, 23 June 2021 Federal judges in Mexico have temporarily suspended dozens of the president’s initiatives to expand state control of the economy, including the new electricity law, saying the actions might violate the constitution. David Luhnow, WSJ, 4 June 2021 In the 1975 Mount Laurel case, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that zoning laws that result in class discrimination violate the state constitution — but in most of the country, zoning laws that are effectively class-based remain legal. Eliza Fawcett,, 30 Apr. 2021 Most people in Germany support such rules, but a vocal minority has staged regular rallies arguing that the restrictions violate the constitution. Jamey Keaten, Star Tribune, 18 Nov. 2020 Vermont in 1777 became the first place on earth to ban slavery in its constitution; Pennsylvania in 1780 became the first to ban it by legislation. The Editors, National Review, 4 July 2021 The city's charter, which serves as its constitution, currently says Minneapolis must have a police department, with a minimum number of officers based on the city's population. Liz Navratil, Star Tribune, 30 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'constitution.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of constitution

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

History and Etymology for constitution

see constitute

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The first known use of constitution was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

27 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Constitution.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Aug. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of constitution

: the system of beliefs and laws by which a country, state, or organization is governed
: a document that describes this system
: the physical health and condition of a person or animal


con·​sti·​tu·​tion | \ ˌkän-stə-ˈtü-shən How to pronounce constitution (audio) , -ˈtyü- \

Kids Definition of constitution

1 : the physical makeup of an individual
2 : the basic structure of something
3 : the basic beliefs and laws of a nation, state, or social group by which the powers and duties of the government are established and certain rights are guaranteed to the people or a document that sets forth these beliefs and laws


con·​sti·​tu·​tion | \ ˌkän(t)-stə-ˈt(y)ü-shən How to pronounce constitution (audio) \

Medical Definition of constitution

1 : the physical makeup of the individual comprising inherited qualities modified by environment
2 : the structure of a compound as determined by the kind, number, and arrangement of atoms in its molecule

Other Words from constitution

constitutional \ -​shnəl, -​shən-​ᵊl How to pronounce constitution (audio) \ adjective

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Legal Definition of constitution

1 : the basic principles and laws of a nation, state, or social group that determine the powers and duties of the government and guarantee certain rights to the people in it
2 : a written instrument containing the fundamental rules of a political or social organization especially, capitalized : the U.S. Constitution — compare charter, declaration

Note: A constitution was originally simply a law, ordinance, or decree usually made by a king, emperor, or other superior authority. A constitution now usually contains the fundamental law and principles with which all other laws must conform. Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the British Constitution is not set down in a comprehensive document, but is found in a variety of statutes (as the Magna Carta) and in common law. Canada inherited many of the rules and practices that are considered part of the British Constitution, but the Constitution of Canada is also set down in comprehensive documents, such as the Constitution Act, 1982 and the Constitution Act, 1867 (formerly called the British North America Act, 1867).

History and Etymology for constitution

Latin constitutio system, fundamental principles (of an institution), from constituere to set up, establish

More from Merriam-Webster on constitution

Nglish: Translation of constitution for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of constitution for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about constitution


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