constitution

noun

con·​sti·​tu·​tion ˌkän(t)-stə-ˈtü-shən How to pronounce constitution (audio)
-ˈtyü-
1
a
: 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
2
a
: 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
constitutionless adjective

Did you know?

Constitution was constituted in 14th-century English as a word indicating an established law or custom. It is from Latin constitutus, the past participle of constituere, meaning "to set up," which is based on an agreement of the prefix com- ("with, together, jointly") with the verb statuere ("to set or place"). Statuere is the root of statute, which, like constitution, has a legal background; it refers to a set law, rule, or regulation. Constitution is also the name for a system of laws and principles by which a country, state, or organization is governed or the document written as a record of them. Outside of law, the word is used in reference to the physical health or condition of the body ("a person of hearty constitution") or to the form or structure of something ("the molecular constitution of the chemical").

Example Sentences

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? See More
Recent Examples on the Web Public unions will pursue similar initiatives in other states to override right-to-work laws, such as Tennessee, where voters added right to work in the state constitution. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 11 Nov. 2022 In Michigan, voters will decide whether to explicitly enshrine a woman's reproductive rights in the state constitution. Rachel Looker, USA TODAY, 8 Nov. 2022 No on Proposal 3, the ballot initiative that would enshrine reproductive rights in the state constitution. Los Angeles Times, 7 Nov. 2022 Measure 111 would add an aspirational right to affordable healthcare in the state constitution. Jamie Goldberg, oregonlive, 5 Nov. 2022 Enshrining these pro-voter policies in the state constitution would immunize them from repeal by the state legislature. Joshua A. Douglas, CNN, 1 Nov. 2022 Included in the state constitution is a section providing for Alaskans to vote on whether to hold a constitutional convention every 10 years. Grace Segers, The New Republic, 31 Oct. 2022 Connecticut’s voting laws are enshrined in the state constitution. Jaden Edison, Hartford Courant, 30 Oct. 2022 Currently, election officials rely on signature verification rather than photo identification to verify absentee ballots, and the right to vote absentee is guaranteed in the state constitution. Detroit Free Press, 28 Oct. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

see constitute

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

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

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Dictionary Entries Near constitution

Cite this Entry

“Constitution.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/constitution. Accessed 27 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

constitution

noun

con·​sti·​tu·​tion ˌkän(t)-stə-ˈt(y)ü-shən How to pronounce constitution (audio)
1
: the act of establishing, making, or setting up
2
a
: the physical makeup of an individual
b
: the structure, composition, or basic qualities of something
3
a
: the basic beliefs and laws of a nation, state, or social group that establish the powers and duties of the government and guarantee certain rights to the people in it
b
: a document containing a constitution

Medical Definition

constitution

noun

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

Legal Definition

constitution

noun

con·​sti·​tu·​tion
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

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