states' rights

plural noun

: all rights not vested by the U.S. Constitution in the federal government nor forbidden by it to the separate states

Examples of states' rights in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The same states' rights ideology that conservatives have long used to justify slavery and segregation now shapes women's rights in the United States. Jill Filipovic, CNN, 3 Aug. 2022 There have been moments of parties splintering, such as when Democrats committed to states' rights and frustrated by civil rights legislation, just as Black Americans were shifting toward Democrats, tried to create their own Dixiecrat party. Zachary B. Wolf, CNN, 15 May 2021 This attempt to federalize our elections and strip away states' rights would make cheating easier than ever. Arkansas Online, 28 Apr. 2022 Morgan wants to uphold the rule of law and preserve the U.S Constitution, such as fighting to ensure the federal government doesn't overstep states' rights. Melissa Estrada, The Arizona Republic, 12 Apr. 2022 Thurmond ran for president that year -- in a four-way race against incumbent Harry S. Truman, Republican Thomas Dewey and progressive Henry Wallace -- on a states' rights ticket. Peniel E. Joseph, CNN, 18 Jan. 2022 Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to propose a kind of compromise; that the court only consider the 15-week ban before it and not states' rights to impose earlier restrictions. Claire Zillman, Fortune, 2 Dec. 2021 But the state has asked the high court to strike down its precedent, in the name of states' rights. Fox News, 28 Nov. 2021 The move has state lawmakers accusing the federal government of overreach into states' rights territory. Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY, 11 Sep. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'states' rights.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1824, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of states' rights was in 1824

Dictionary Entries Near states' rights

Cite this Entry

“States' rights.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

states' rights

plural noun
: all rights not given to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution nor forbidden by it to the separate states

Legal Definition

states' rights

noun plural
: rights and powers not forbidden to the states nor vested in the federal government by the U.S. Constitution
singular in construction : a doctrine based on states' rights that has been used to justify state resistance to federal authority in matters seen as the exclusive concern of the states and that is most often associated with the states favoring slavery and secession in the 19th century compare federalism

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