Definition of republic
- the French Fourth Republic
- the republic of letters
when asked by a passerby what sort of government the constitutional convention had formulated for the new nation, Benjamin Franklin memorably replied, “A republic, if you can keep it”
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'republic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
One of the most commonly encountered questions about the word democracy has nothing to do with its spelling or pronunciation, and isn’t even directly related to the meaning of the word itself. That question is “is the United States a democracy or a republic?” The answer to this, as with so many other questions about meaning, may be phrased as some form of “it depends.”
Some people believe that a country calling itself a democracy must be engaged in direct (or pure) democracy, in which the people of a state or region vote directly for policies, rather than elect representatives who make choices on their behalf. People who follow this line of reasoning hold that the United States is more properly described as a republic, using the following definition of that word: ”a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law.”
However, both democracy and republic have more than a single meaning, and one of the definitions we provide for democracy closely resembles the definition of republic given above: “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”
So if someone asks you if the United States is a democracy or a republic, you may safely answer the question with either “both” or “it depends.”
: a country that is governed by elected representatives and by an elected leader (such as a president) rather than by a king or queen
What made you want to look up republic? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
Confusing Words—A Quiz