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

Recent Examples on the Web

Democrats tend to discover the wonders of federalism at times that are politically convenient for them in Washington. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "ObamaCare’s Red State Trap," 29 Oct. 2018 That’s why delisting would be a win not only for the Caniks and Posticals but also for federalism and property rights. Cori Petersen, WSJ, "Wolves Attack Wisconsin With Washington’s Help," 27 July 2018 Perhaps Democrats’ newfound 2017 commitment to federalism will amount to more than a form of resistance to Trump. Lee Drutman, Vox, "America has local political institutions but nationalized politics. This is a problem.," 31 May 2018 But these actions only treat the symptoms of the strife, not the cause: ethnic federalism. Yohannes Y. Gedamu, Washington Post, "Ethiopia just pardoned political prisoners. Could that signal a shift to real democracy?," 9 Feb. 2018 Especially on issues like separation of powers, federalism, areas of religious freedom, free exercise in particular. Fox News, "Leonard Leo on why Trump appointed Judge Kavanaugh," 10 July 2018 Although appellate judges consider many of the same substantive questions as Supreme Court justices, broad questions of judicial deference, federalism, constitutional law, and civil rights cross district judges’ desk less often. Kevin Cope, Washington Post, "Exactly how conservative are the judges on Trump’s short list for the Supreme Court? Take a look at this one chart.," 7 July 2018 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

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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22 Dec 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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More from Merriam-Webster on federalism

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with federalism

Spanish Central: Translation of federalism

Nglish: Translation of federalism for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about federalism

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a complex dispute or argument

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