republic

noun
re·pub·lic | \ ri-ˈpə-blik \

Definition of republic 

1a(1) : a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president

(2) : a political unit (such as a nation) having such a form of government

b(1) : 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

(2) : a political unit (such as a nation) having such a form of government

c : a usually specified republican government of a political unit the French Fourth Republic

2 : a body of persons freely engaged in a specified activity the republic of letters

3 : a constituent political and territorial unit of the former nations of Czechoslovakia, the U.S.S.R., or Yugoslavia

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Is the United States a democracy or a republic?

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.”

Examples of republic in a Sentence

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”

Recent Examples on the Web

People in this country have been speaking languages other than English since before the founding of the republic. Harmeet Kaur, CNN, "FYI: English isn't the official language of the United States," 20 May 2018 Inside, my queasiness intensified, despite the high society touches that, of course, were unbecoming to a people’s republic. Thomas Swick, Longreads, "Letters from Trenton," 5 July 2018 Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of the tiny republic in Russia’s North Caucasus, uses Islam to further his own interests, from rebuilding mosques in Syria to aggressively stamping out Islamist militancy at home. Washington Post, "Forgiven by her native Chechnya, a woman is returned from Islamic State," 2 July 2018 The paper claims history dating decades before the founding of the American republic, and was owned for years by Philip Merrill, the former diplomat who served in Republican presidential administrations. Emma Green, The Atlantic, "The Capital Gazette Won’t Stop Reporting," 29 June 2018 Soon after noon, the Communist Pyongyang radio said the North Korean government had declared war on this southern republic. sandiegouniontribune.com, "June 25, 1950: North Korea declares war," 25 June 2018 Upon the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in 1991, Macedonia, one of the six constituent republics in the defunct federation, declared itself a new nation. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Why Macedonia’s Government Agreed to Change the Country’s Name," 13 June 2018 The republic's constitutional reform had spurred questions over whether there should be a similar change to the law in Northern Ireland. Lauren Said-moorhouse, CNN, "UK court criticizes Northern Ireland abortion law but rejects bid for reform," 7 June 2018 From the archives, the republic's founding bar tab: - 54 bottles of Madeira wine. The Washington Post, AL.com, "'The bender that began America': George Washington's boozy 1787 Constitution celebration," 22 Feb. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of republic

1596, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for republic

French république, from Middle French republique, from Latin respublica, from res thing, wealth + publica, feminine of publicus public — more at real, public

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Statistics for republic

Last Updated

27 Aug 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for republic

The first known use of republic was in 1596

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More Definitions for republic

republic

noun

English Language Learners Definition of republic

: a country that is governed by elected representatives and by an elected leader (such as a president) rather than by a king or queen

republic

noun
re·pub·lic | \ ri-ˈpə-blik \

Kids Definition of republic

: a country with elected representatives and an elected chief of state who is not a monarch and who is usually a president

republic

noun
re·pub·lic

Legal Definition of republic 

1 : a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president also : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government

2 : 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 also : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government

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Comments on republic

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