Definition of commonwealth in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkɒmənwɛlθ/


1An independent state or community, especially a democratic republic.
Example sentences
  • It was a liberal empire and a democratic commonwealth, and its aim, as with America in the Philippines, was to prepare its components for self-government.
  • He encouraged the Mormons to be self-sufficient and created an independent commonwealth.
  • This is an amazing example of what John Locke argued in his Second Treatise about what man in a state of nature gives up when he joins a commonwealth and enters a society that agrees to give up some of their power to form a government.
1.1An aggregate or grouping of states or other bodies: a union or commonwealth of democratic, self-governing countries
More example sentences
  • Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchial duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories including New Jersey.
  • Only thus can Europe have any ideological and cultural glue; without it we are just a commonwealth of states in a customs union’.
  • Comparisons might be drawn between these early kingdoms and a commonwealth of nations, each gradually seeking independence from the old imperial, provincial, or colonial structures to which they had once been subject.
1.2A community of shared interests in a non-political field: the Christian commonwealth the commonwealth of letters
More example sentences
  • The advocates and champions of these different initiatives have yet to unite in any noticeable way around their shared interests in the commonwealth of learning and access to public goods.
  • And so, I beg each one of you: put away your selfish interest and merge yourselves into the commonwealth of men so that we may proceed together.
  • He said the connection of young people within the commonwealth stimulated the group to convene the forum so that common strategies of involvement could be developed alongside networking mechanisms.
1.3A self-governing unit voluntarily grouped with the US, such as Puerto Rico: the island became a commonwealth of the United States in 1986
More example sentences
  • Formally, Puerto Rico is a commonwealth in free association with the US.
  • Officially, Puerto Rico became a U.S. commonwealth in 1952, when the island was granted limited self-government.
  • Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States, meaning that it is subject to most federal regulations and subsidies.
1.4A formal title of some of the states of the US, especially Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Example sentences
  • And it's an historic day because finally all families in the commonwealth of Massachusetts will have the opportunity to be equal families under the law.
  • The commonwealth of Pennsylvania mandates that all dog owners license their pets by the time they are six months old.
  • This is Beacon Hill, the state house for the commonwealth of Massachusetts.
1.5The title of the federated Australian states.
Example sentences
  • It has not happened because the commonwealth lacks the constitutional power and the states have never all agreed to relinquish responsibility.
  • He pointed out that the commonwealth had the power, under international environmental treaties, to stop any development that was threatening protected wetlands.
  • The states ceded some taxation powers to the commonwealth around the time of the second world war.
1.6 (the Commonwealth) The republican period of government in Britain between the execution of Charles I in 1649 and the Restoration of Charles II in 1660.
2 (the Commonwealth , in full the Commonwealth of Nations) An international association consisting of the UK together with states that were previously part of the British Empire, and dependencies.
3 (the commonwealth) archaic The general good.
Example sentences
  • The notion of a commonwealth, of a common good, is disappearing.
  • For he must in the true sense of the word serve no one but the commonwealth.


Late Middle English (originally as two words, denoting public welfare; compare with commonweal): from common + wealth.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: com¦mon|wealth

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