republic

noun
re·​pub·​lic | \ ri-ˈpə-blik How to pronounce republic (audio) \

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 assert 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 Venetian Senate had no choice but to abdicate, thus ending 1,100 years of a calm and orderly republic. Kasia Dietz, Travel, "Need to complain? Here’s how Renaissance-era Venetians did it," 4 Jan. 2021 In 2008, the country became a democratic republic by abolishing the 240-year-old monarchy. Washington Post, "Nepal parliament dissolved amid power struggle in the ruling party," 20 Dec. 2020 Though Trump attempted to caricature Harris during the campaign as a leftist who would dominate Biden and turn the country into a socialist republic, she is hardly viewed within the party as a movement progressive. Noah Bierman, Los Angeles Times, "Kamala Harris is on the cusp of power but has to tread carefully," 6 Dec. 2020 Dear Attorney General Barr, Two pillars of a successful republic are election integrity and confidence in our democratic processes. Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, "20 House Republicans demand Barr investigate ‘suitcases’ of ballots in Georgia," 4 Dec. 2020 At 70, Patwardhan is nearly the same age as independent India, and his appearance — long hair, youthful face, leather strap sandals, loose homespun cotton tunics — is at once haphazard and hopeful, not unlike the promise of a new republic. New York Times, "India’s Leading Documentary Filmmaker Has a Warning," 1 Dec. 2020 The stakes were high: public opinion of the British monarchy was at an all-time low in Australia, and Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke was ready to become a complete republic. Lydia Wang, refinery29.com, "The Crown Meticulously Recreated 8 Famous Photo Ops From Diana’s Australia Tour," 19 Nov. 2020 Obama’s time in office was by no means the paragon of a presidency bound by the rules of a liberal democratic republic. James Freeman, WSJ, "Another Obama Lecture," 16 Nov. 2020 It is often said that a free press is necessary to the maintenance of a free republic. Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review, "Biden’s Media Campaign," 12 Nov. 2020

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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Time Traveler for republic

Time Traveler

The first known use of republic was in 1596

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Statistics for republic

Last Updated

21 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Republic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/republic. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for republic

republic

noun
How to pronounce republic (audio)

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 How to pronounce republic (audio) \

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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