fed·er·al·ism | \ˈfe-d(ə-)rə-ˌli-zəm \

Definition of federalism 

1a often capitalized : the distribution of power in an organization (such as a government) between a central authority and the constituent (see constituent entry 2 sense 1) units under our system of federalism, states bear the primary responsibility for defining and controlling criminal behavior— W. R. LaFave & J. R. Israel — compare centralism

b : support or advocacy of this principle

2 capitalized : Federalist principles

Examples of federalism in a Sentence

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Because federalism, judicial restraint — any one of these concerns can be overridden in a particular context by other concerns. Mark Arsenault, BostonGlobe.com, "In polarizing era, respect for precedent depends on the case," 11 July 2018 Mr Duterte argues that federalism would transfer power and money away from Manila to other, poorer parts of the country. The Economist, "The president of the Philippines wants to change the constitution," 28 June 2018 One great thing about federalism is that states can innovate, demonstrate, and incorporate ideas from one another. BostonGlobe.com, "Should Massachusetts drop tuition and fees for in-state students at its public colleges and universities?," 22 June 2018 At issue in the sports gambling case is the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution and federalism versus states’ rights. Phil Rosenthal, chicagotribune.com, "If the U.S. Supreme Court lets states legalize sports betting, media might make a wager," 11 May 2018 This is a victory for federalism and the plain reading of the law, notwithstanding howls that this is somehow about purging minority voters. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "A Victory for Voting Law," 11 June 2018 The strength and flexibility of Madisonian federalism have enabled the American system to flourish amid more than two centuries of successive upheavals. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, "America’s Decline Never Seems to Arrive," 2 July 2018 Justice Kennedy’s other great contribution has been support for federalism and the proper understanding of the separation of powers. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Court After Kennedy," 27 June 2018 American federalism is no longer facilitating the expression of various issues and conflicts. Lee Drutman, Vox, "America has local political institutions but nationalized politics. This is a problem.," 31 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'federalism.' 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 federalism

1787, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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1 Sep 2018

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The first known use of federalism was in 1787

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More Definitions for federalism


noun, often capitalized
fed·er·al·ism | \ˈfe-drə-ˌli-zəm, ˈfe-də-rə- \

Legal Definition of federalism 

: distribution of power in a federation between the central authority and the constituent units (as states) involving especially the allocation of significant lawmaking powers to those constituent units — compare comity, full faith and credit, states' rights

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