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 Linotte rente has endured five French republics, two world wars and persistent, if unsuccessful, attempts by the French government to get rid of it. Georgi Kantchev, WSJ, "The Bond That’s Still Paying Interest, 280 Years Later," 6 Jan. 2019 In 1999 a national referendum voted to keep the Queen, and the most recent poll in April showed half of Australians supported a republic, with 35 per cent against and 10 per cent uncommitted. Juliet Rieden, Town & Country, "Why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Tour of Australia Is Crucial to the Future of the Monarchy," 1 Nov. 2018 The Donetsk People's Republic, along with a separatist republic in neighboring Luhansk, has fought Ukrainian forces since 2014, the same year Zakharchenko became DPR's prime minister. Fox News, "Ukraine separatists report leader killed in cafe explosion," 31 Aug. 2018 This redistricting process is as old as the republic, enshrined in the Constitution. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: GOP senator urges love for LGBT youths in Pride Month speech," 14 June 2018 Republic Day commemorates the day, June 2, 1946, when Italians voted in a referendum to abolish the monarchy in favor of a republic, Italy’s first. Nicole Winfield, The Seattle Times, "New Italian govt vows to create jobs, deport migrants," 2 June 2018 The republic, the separation of powers, and the office of the presidency won’t crumble. Cristian Farias, Daily Intelligencer, "The Supreme Court Will Make Trump Talk to Mueller If It Has To," 3 May 2018 Uzbekistan, a former Soviet republic, is not among the countries listed on Trump’s travel ban. Isobel Thompson, The Hive, "As New York Searches for Answers, Trump Blames Chuck Schumer," 1 Nov. 2017 The last republics to survive the early modern era, like the Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia, were engulfed in strife at home and imperilled by powerful competition from abroad. Yascha Mounk, The New Yorker, "The Rise of McPolitics," 12 Jan. 2015

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

15 Jan 2019

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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