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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Although the figure was numerically low, his showing seemed significant because opposition in the former Soviet republic is restricted. Fox News, "Kazakh opposition leader vows continued efforts," 15 June 2019 And in a functioning republic, Congress and the White House would be dealing with actual problems the country faces. E.j. Dionne Jr., The Mercury News, "Dionne: Give Trump an ultimatum: Respond or be impeached," 10 June 2019 Women are forbidden from going to watch live football matches in the conservative Islamic republic. Joe Graedon, M.s., And Teresa Graedon, Houston Chronicle, "Will zinc help hirsutism in women?," 13 May 2018 Hillary Clinton ran for president and won the third-highest vote total in the history of the republic, well ahead of the man whom Starr voted for instead. Dan Zak, The Seattle Times, "The Starr Report got a president impeached 20 years ago, and Ken Starr wants to remind you why," 11 Sep. 2018 Carranza was another revolutionary leader who would eventually become the first president of the new Mexican republic. Teen Vogue, "Mexican Revolutionary Petra Herrera Posed as a Man to Fight for Her Country," 1 Apr. 2019 Anything but macabre, the book and the party celebrated the republic, for all its uncertainties and peculiarities. Ian Malone, Vogue, "Jeff Koons and Monica Lewinsky Attend a Book Party Honoring Accidental Presidents at Ralph Lauren," 3 Apr. 2019 And some amazing performances were happening, such as those led by Aleksandra Kollontai in Muslim republics of the USSR, where women would gather in the main squares of cities and get rid of their burkas in front of everybody. Corey Seymour, Vogue, "Pussy Riot's Nadya Tolokonnikova On Her New Guide To Activism, Raising The Next President Of Russia, And Her "Holy War" On Fairy Tales," 12 Oct. 2018 The official said the suspect was born in November 1997 in the largely Muslim Russian republic of Chechnya, where extremism has long simmered. Angela Charlton And Elaine Ganley, chicagotribune.com, "Parents, friend of Chechnya-born Paris attacker questioned," 13 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about republic

Statistics for republic

Last Updated

18 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for republic

The first known use of republic was in 1596

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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 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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on republic

What made you want to look up republic? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

showing courage and determination

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!