republic

noun
re·​pub·​lic | \ ri-ˈpə-blik How to pronounce republic (audio) \

Essential Meaning 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 an independent republic an eastern European republic

Full 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

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 Only in Trumpworld could an inquiry into Trump’s involvement in an attack on the Capitol be more harmful to the republic than the attack itself. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 20 Oct. 2021 For Haiti, colonialism and slavery anywhere posed a threat to the republic’s own independence and humanity. France Francois, refinery29.com, 7 Oct. 2021 Early in his presidency, the Trump show -- with its crazed West Wing antics and his craving for attention -- was exhausting and distracting, but ultimately not a threat to the republic. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 2 Aug. 2021 It’s a satisfying act for me, a minuscule-but-habitual performance of duty to the republic for which the flag stands. Philip Wallach, National Review, 14 June 2021 But in decisions tracing to the republic’s early years, the Supreme Court has on occasion recognized the dependent sovereignty the tribes retained. Jess Bravin, WSJ, 1 June 2021 In order to protect the peace process following Brexit, Britain and the EU agreed to keep the frontier open but conduct some border checks at ports in Northern Ireland before goods are shipped to the republic. chicagotribune.com, 17 Mar. 2021 The most senior Republican in Congress was apparently recognizing, however belatedly, that his party had done potentially fatal damage to the American republic. Fintan O’toole, The New York Review of Books, 2 Mar. 2021 Weaver joined the Lincoln Project in late 2019, as one of eight Republican co-founders dedicated to the proposition that Trump was a threat to the republic. Roxanne Roberts, Anchorage Daily News, 13 Feb. 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near republic

reptiloid

republic

republican

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Statistics for republic

Last Updated

29 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Republic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/republic. Accessed 2 Dec. 2021.

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More Definitions for republic

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

More from Merriam-Webster on republic

Nglish: Translation of republic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of republic for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about republic

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