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 Since the 1990s, many of Africa’s multiethnic states have pursued federalism as a mechanism or tool to accommodate the competing claims of all groups. John Mukum Mbaku, Washington Examiner, "Catastrophe in the Horn of Africa," 18 Mar. 2021 During the administration of former President Donald Trump, many Democratic politicians similarly invoked federalism in attempts to circumvent the White House's rightward lurch. Carly Roman, Washington Examiner, "Matt Gaetz: States key to resisting Biden agenda," 27 Feb. 2021 The Constitution, separation of powers, federalism and more. Nick Murray, Star Tribune, "Scrutinize the use of emergency powers in times of crisis," 17 Feb. 2021 These procedures include liberalism, federalism, localism, traditionalism, prudentialism, capitalism, volunteerism, originalism, textualism, and democratic-republicanism. Andy Smarick, National Review, "In Defense of Proceduralism," 17 Sep. 2020 There are good examples of the benefits of federalism. Michael J. Hicks For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, "What Biden's top economic priority must be," 1 Dec. 2020 However, there is a more tempered view among those who see the wisdom of the ethnic federalism system. Samuel Getachew, Quartz Africa, "Ethiopia won its armed battle over Tigray, but it hasn’t won the political war just yet," 4 Dec. 2020 Over the past few decades, the United States has moved away from federalism, where state and local government take a more active role in determining their own best course of action on many of our most divisive issues. Michael J. Hicks For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, "What Biden's top economic priority must be," 1 Dec. 2020 Several leading politicians in the NUP cut their teeth on royalist struggles for land and federalism. The Economist, "Sing it loud Bobi Wine, the pop star who would be president of Uganda," 7 Nov. 2020

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

2 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Federalism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/federalism. Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on federalism

Nglish: Translation of federalism for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about federalism

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