Etymology of Republic

The definition of republic is fairly simple; a republic is a country or state that is governed by those who are elected by the citizens. A republic does not have kings or queens, but instead has an elected leader. Indeed, in a republic, the concept of monarchs having the divine right to rule does not exist. A republican is a supporter or member of the Republican Party, or simply an individual that favors the republican government.

A School Manual of English Etymology describes republic in the following way: a commonwealth; a state in which the power is lodged in representatives chosen by the people.


We have to go back all the way to Latin to understand the etymology of the word republic. The Latin respublica is a combination of res and publica.

Res is a Latin word that can mean thing, affair, matter or simply stuff. It comes from the Proto-Italic reis, which means thing.

Publica is another Latin word, and is the feminine nominative singular form of publicus (public).

Thus, respublica means public affair or public thing.

As with a great many English words though, republic doesn’t descend directly from Latin. Respublica later transformed into the Middle French république. Some time later, république evolved into the modern word republic.

Republic in Other Languages

Albanian: republikë

Basque: errepublika

Bosnian: republika

Catalan: república

Croatian: republika

Czech: republika

Danish: republik

Dutch: republiek

Estonian: vabariik

Finnish: tasavalta

French: république

Galician: república

German Republik

Italian: repubblica

Norwegin: republikken

Polish: republika

Portuguese: república

Romanian: republică

Spanish: república

Swedish: republiken


Murray, John. An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English. 1921.

Sargent, Epes. A School Manual Of English Etymology: And Text-Book Of Derivatives, Prefixes And Suffixes: With Numerous Exercises For The Use Of Schools. J.H. Butler, 1873. Print.