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 In 1994, President Clinton, attending a NATO summit meeting in Belgium, announced completion of a deal to remove all long-range nuclear missiles from the former Soviet republic of Ukraine. BostonGlobe.com, "This day in history," 9 Jan. 2020 Many observers reckon that is what, in effect, happened in the tiny former Soviet republic in November, when a pro-Western government abruptly collapsed, to be replaced by a new one that leans firmly towards Moscow. The Economist, "Rolled over A pro-Western government has been pushed out in Moldova," 12 Dec. 2019 The outgoing parliament in the former Soviet republic had two opposition deputies. SFChronicle.com, "News of the Day From Around the World," 18 Nov. 2019 The fact that the two biggest controversies of the Trump presidency have revolved around Russia and Ukraine – two former Soviet republics in a state of perpetual conflict – might have seemed like a strange coincidence. Aaron Blake, The Denver Post, "Aaron Blake: Trump’s Ukraine conspiracy theory — and the Russia-tied criminals on his campaign," 5 Nov. 2019 To the present day at least 10 of the 15 former Soviet republics can be accurately described as oligarchies. Bruce M. Boghosian, Scientific American, "Is Inequality Inevitable?," 1 Nov. 2019 In another power game, Russia hopes to see major gains in its long-running effort to retain leverage over its neighbor Ukraine, a former Soviet republic looking to align itself with the West. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Kremlin relishes US pullback from Syria, turmoil in Ukraine," 13 Oct. 2019 The official was referring to the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, which released radioactive airborne contamination for about nine days. Reuters, The Mercury News, "US experts think a recent Russia accident involved nukes," 9 Aug. 2019 An auto mechanic and dealer by trade, Vorotinov then left Minnesota for Moldova, a former Soviet republic in Eastern Europe. Deanna Weniger, Twin Cities, "Former Twin Cities man who faked his death for $2 million insurance payout sentenced to three years," 29 July 2019

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

15 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Republic.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/republic. Accessed 19 January 2020.

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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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