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

Thoughtful people know that for all our grand monuments carved of granite and marble, a republic is an extremely fragile thing. John Kass, chicagotribune.com, "Column: Andrew McCarthy’s book ‘Ball of Collusion’ thoughtfully connects the dots on Clinton and Obama," 23 Aug. 2019 Further Reading Study: US is slipping toward measles being endemic once again While health officials face unique challenges to curbing disease in the DRC, the republic is far from the only country to face a boom in measles cases. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Measles is killing more people in the DRC than Ebola—and faster," 15 July 2019 There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. Brian Stelter, CNN, "Murrow's words from 1954 apply to the Trump age: 'We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty'," 15 July 2019 The riot was a call for the establishment of a republic in France in the face of an oppressive regime and food shortages that spurred on the revolution. Editors, USA TODAY, "Tropical Storm Barry, Wimbledon Finals, ICE immigration raids: 5 things to know this weekend," 13 July 2019 Our country’s founders established a constitutional republic uniquely dedicated to securing the rights of the people. Justin Amash, Twin Cities, "Justin Amash: Our politics is in a partisan death spiral. That’s why I’m leaving my party," 10 July 2019 The takeaway is this: The survival of a healthy republic requires the electorate to take the time and effort to inform itself and vote thoughtfully. Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, "Letter: Voters easily manipulated by emotion-based ads," 7 July 2019 That’s a long time to carry a torch for the founders’ stated intention to create a democratic republic. Taina Mcfield, Essence, "My True Independence Day Hasn't Arrived Yet," 4 July 2019 The former Soviet republic is one of the most wired nations in the world. NBC News, "Data security meets diplomacy: Why Estonia is storing its data in Luxembourg," 25 June 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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Statistics for republic

Last Updated

27 Aug 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 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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