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

The incumbent is the most powerful leader since the founder of the Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Suzan Fraser, Elene Becatoros, Time, "Partial Results Show Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Leading in Country's Elections," 24 June 2018 The idea of the extended republic, introduced in Federalist No. Jay Cost, National Review, "Let’s Not Throw Out the Constitution," 29 Jan. 2018 The vote was finally held amid a violent crackdown by police sent in by Madrid, and the unilateral declaration of a new Catalan republic that followed was never implemented after central authorities seized control over the region. Aritz Parra, Fox News, "Spanish, Catalan leaders meet to breach gap over secession," 9 July 2018 The vote was finally held amid a violent crackdown by police sent in by Madrid, and the unilateral declaration of a new Catalan republic that followed was never implemented after central authorities seized control over the region. Aritz Parra, The Seattle Times, "Spanish, Catalan leaders meet to bridge gap over secession," 9 July 2018 The Nazis took advantage of an opportunity created by people who could destroy a republic while lacking the imagination to see what comes next. Timothy Snyder, New York Times, "How Did the Nazis Gain Power in Germany?," 14 June 2018 Russia’s retirement age is lower than in any of the OECD countries; among former Soviet republics, only Russia and Uzbekistan have not raised it since the USSR collapsed. The Economist, "Russia will raise pension ages that date back to Stalin," 30 June 2018 Elene had come from her home in the former Soviet republic of Georgia to visit her mother in New York around Christmas and fallen suddenly ill, with a high fever and stomachaches and mysterious bruises and infections. Andy Newman, New York Times, "Live, From the Children’s Ward," 29 June 2018 Russia is likely to be watching the outcome of it's former Soviet republic closely -- the countries maintain close relations, with Moscow also an important provider of military hardware to Yerevan. Sheena Mckenzie Gianluca Mezzofiore, CNN, "Armenia's capital brought to standstill as protesters take to streets," 2 May 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

5 Nov 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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