Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The people of a nation or state; the body politic.
  • n. A nation or state governed by the people; a republic.
  • n. Used to refer to some U.S. states, namely, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
  • n. Used to refer to a self-governing, autonomous political unit voluntarily associated with the United States, namely, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.
  • n. The Commonwealth of Nations.
  • n. The English state and government from the death of Charles I in 1649 to the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, including the Protectorate of 1653 to 1659.
  • n. Archaic The public good; commonweal.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A form of government, named for the concept that everything that is not owned by specific individuals or groups is owned collectively by everyone in the governmental unit, as opposed to a state, where the state itself owns such things.
  • n. Approximately, a republic.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A state; a body politic consisting of a certain number of men, united, by compact or tacit agreement, under one form of government and system of laws.
  • n. The whole body of people in a state; the public.
  • n. Specifically, the form of government established on the death of Charles I., in 1649, which existed under Oliver Cromwell and his son Richard, ending with the abdication of the latter in 1659.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The whole body of people in a state; the body politic; the public.
  • n. Specifically The republican or democratic form of government; a government chosen directly by the people; a republican or democratic state: as, the commonwealth of England (which see, below).
  • n. An association of actors who take shares in the receipts, in lieu of salaries.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the official name of some states in the United States (Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and Virginia and Kentucky) and associated territories (Puerto Rico)
  • n. a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them
  • n. a politically organized body of people under a single government
  • n. a world organization of autonomous states that are united in allegiance to a central power but are not subordinate to it or to one another

Etymologies

From 15th century, common (“public”) +‎ wealth (“well-being”). Expanded in the 17th century to mean "a state in which the supreme power is vested in the people; a republic or democratic state." (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • They're at home with what I call a commonwealth of being.

    Fully Human, Fully Divine: James Fowler and Evelyn Underhill

  • They occupied what he called the commonwealth cemetery, and lying next to them, with their headstones facing Mecca, were Muslim dead from Libya, Algeria, Sudan and India.

    Long Way Down

  • The commonwealth is now the fifth largest wine-producing state in the country and the seventh-largest commercial grape producer.

    McDonnell talks about the South's future

  • Utah has beat out Virginia on Forbes magazine's list of the best states for business, knocking the commonwealth from the top ranking it has held for the past four years.

    Virginia Politics

  • Any sane person, which by definition excludes any resident of Montgomery County, knows that the commonwealth is vastly superior.

    Archive 2009-04-01

  • An earlier comment questioned my use of the word commonwealth as describing all those things Americans hold together — our public lands and resources, our defenses, our air and water, our government, and the list is long.

    Gary Hart: The Commonwealth and the Commons

  • The novel holds the attention perhaps because the portrayed commonwealth is convincing in the sense that indeed one can imagine such a federation evolving from the world we know in future.

    REVIEW: Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton

  • The landowner himself was liberated from his bondage to service in 1785 by Catherine II "who was influenced by Western thoughts. 7" his principle of service to the commonwealth is one of the leading forces throughout the history of Russia.

    Russia

  • To my mind one of the great tasks before us in our great commonwealth is altogether related to that sentiment, more than ever to develop loyalty to the fullest, loyalty within the Empire and beyond it, loyalty to the ideals we stand for, and loyalty to the human race.

    Free Masonry of Empire

  • Perhaps, as some think, the beau ideal of a sacred commonwealth is given according to the then existing pattern of temple services, which would be the imagery most familiar to the prophet and his hearers at the time.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

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