fed·​er·​al | \ ˈfe-d(ə-)rəl How to pronounce federal (audio) \

Definition of federal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : of or constituting a form of government in which power is distributed between a central authority and a number of constituent territorial units
b : of or relating to the central government of a federation as distinguished from the governments of the constituent units
c : formed by a compact between political units that surrender their individual sovereignty to a central authority but retain limited residuary powers of government
2 often capitalized : of, relating to, or loyal to the federal government or the Union armies of the U.S. in the American Civil War
3 capitalized : being or belonging to a style of architecture and decoration current in the U.S. following the American Revolution
4 capitalized : advocating or friendly to the principle of a federal government with strong centralized powers especially : of or relating to the American Federalists
5 archaic : of or relating to a compact or treaty



Definition of Federal (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a supporter of the U.S. government in the Civil War especially : a soldier in the federal armies
2 : fed sense 1 usually used in plural The Federals arrested the smugglers.

Other Words from federal


federally \ ˈfe-​d(ə-​)rə-​lē How to pronounce federal (audio) \ adverb

Examples of federal in a Sentence

Adjective We pay federal, state, and local taxes. The ruling was overturned by a federal appeals court. furniture made in the Federal style
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Environmental activists, who have urged federal officials to take a more active role to assist these regions for years, said the initiative was welcome news but would not work long term unless the White House remained engaged indefinitely. Glenn Thrush, BostonGlobe.com, 2 Aug. 2022 To date, there have been more than 5,800 confirmed or suspected cases in the U.S., federal health officials said. Dominique Mosbergen, WSJ, 2 Aug. 2022 Appalshop officials are reaching out to federal emergency officials to determine the availability of assistance, Ms. Scalos said. The Christian Science Monitor, 1 Aug. 2022 Becerra touted vaccines and treatments that the Biden administration has continued to send to local health departments and providers, including about 800,000 doses that federal officials cleared for distribution this week. Fenit Nirappil, Anchorage Daily News, 29 July 2022 San Francisco and New York are sounding the alarm on monkeypox, as federal officials weigh whether to declare the outbreak a nationwide public health emergency. Alexandra Meeks, CNN, 29 July 2022 The JetBlue-Spirit agreement still faces a shareholder vote and regulatory approval, which could prove difficult if federal officials believe the deal would reduce competition and increase fares. Amanda Maile, ABC News, 29 July 2022 Despite the problems with vaccine supply, federal officials said Thursday that the country's monkeypox outbreak can still be stopped, amid worries that the U.S. has missed the window to contain the virus. CBS News, 28 July 2022 Following a moment of silence at the start of the meeting, Rotering, sometimes tearfully, sometimes angrily, summed up her efforts to lobby federal officials to institute the sort of ban Highland Park itself imposed nearly a decade ago. John Keilman, Chicago Tribune, 26 July 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of federal


1624, in the meaning defined at sense 5


1861, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for federal


Latin foeder-, foedus compact, league; akin to Latin fidere to trust — more at bide

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Time Traveler for federal

Time Traveler

The first known use of federal was in 1624

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Dictionary Entries Near federal



federal assembly

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Statistics for federal

Last Updated

5 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Federal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/federal. Accessed 13 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for federal


fed·​er·​al | \ ˈfe-də-rəl How to pronounce federal (audio) , ˈfe-drəl \

Kids Definition of federal

: relating to a nation formed by the union of several parts



Legal Definition of federal

1 : of or constituting a form of government in which power is distributed between a central authority and a number of constituent territorial units (as states) a federal government
2 : of or relating to the central government of a federation as distinguished from the governments of the constituent territorial units (as states) especially : of or relating to the laws made and enforced by the federal government a federal crime

Other Words from federal

federally adverb

History and Etymology for federal

Latin foeder-, foedus compact, league


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