fed·​er·​al·​ism ˈfe-d(ə-)rə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce federalism (audio)
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 behaviorW. R. LaFave & J. R. Israel
compare centralism
: support or advocacy of this principle
capitalized : Federalist principles

Examples of federalism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Restoring federalism is possible, but only with concerted efforts now. Pete Sepp, National Review, 18 July 2023 Unless the courts stop enabling this political weaponization of federalism, our federalism will remain uncooperative. Wendy E. Parmet, Scientific American, 19 Oct. 2022 According to the department, the ruling doesn’t pose an issue to federalism because states can petition the department for exemption under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. By Mary Stroka | The Center Square Contributor , Washington Examiner, 5 Apr. 2023 At that point, federalism, and the Union, are dead, as states refuse to recognize the legitimacy of court decisions, and the comparisons with the Taney court are complete. Brynn Tannehill, The New Republic, 11 Jan. 2023 There was a deep commitment to federalism at the Founding. Aziz Huq, Time, 8 Dec. 2022 In short, despite frequent paeans to federalism, neither side is willing to accept the diversity of approaches that federalism should entail. Wendy E. Parmet, Scientific American, 19 Oct. 2022 Those organizations advocate for an expansive view of federalism in which the national government is severely constrained compared to the expansive authority for individual states. Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune, 8 July 2023 That was an era in which a right-wing bloc on the Supreme Court imposed a conservative federalism on state legislative decisions, ignoring local conditions, which Brandeis saw as varying greatly state by state. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 7 Sep. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'federalism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1787, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of federalism was in 1787

Dictionary Entries Near federalism

Cite this Entry

“Federalism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/federalism. Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

Legal Definition


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

More from Merriam-Webster on federalism

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