fed·​er·​al·​ism | \ ˈfe-d(ə-)rə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce federalism (audio) \

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 The high court held that federalism trumps copyright law, effectively giving states a free pass. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Supreme Court rules states are immune from copyright law," 24 Mar. 2020 The Court’s liberals are typically sympathetic to trial lawyers, though Justices Kennedy and Thomas appear to have joined for federalism reasons. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Fighting a Tort Plague," 6 Jan. 2019 As a matter of principle, many believe that a federal program, no matter its form, would contravene federalism and usurp the role of state and local governments. Alexandra Desanctis, National Review, "Paid Family Leave Finds Proponents on the Right," 19 Dec. 2019 This is asymmetrical federalism and cannot be allowed. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: Pay for C-470 project at pumps; Missing the point on emissions standards; Consider the context; The choice is clear: Safety measures should be mandatory (9/27/19)," 27 Sep. 2019 Rather, a 5-4 Supreme Court majority invalidated the law on federalism grounds — saying that Congress simply lacked the authority to regulate the matter. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation will delegitimize the Supreme Court — and that’s good," 5 Oct. 2018 Indeed, different state approaches are protected in our system of federalism. Jonathan Turley, Twin Cities, "Jonathan Turley: Yes, Trump has Joe McCarthy-like tendencies. So do some Democrats," 25 Oct. 2019 The same economic managers who are wary of federalism are in favour of removing constitutional limits on foreign ownership of local companies, as are many investors. The Economist, "Rodrigo Duterte is losing interest in creating a federal Philippines," 1 Aug. 2019 In the United States, this principle is often folded into our tradition of federalism. James Sutton, National Review, "The California Housing Crisis and the Problem with Local Control," 19 June 2019

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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The first known use of federalism was in 1787

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Last Updated

30 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Federalism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/federalism. Accessed 7 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for federalism


noun, often capitalized
fed·​er·​al·​ism | \ ˈfe-drə-ˌli-zəm, ˈfe-də-rə- How to pronounce federalism (audio) \

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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