views updated May 29 2018

fed·er·al / ˈfed(ə)rəl/ • adj. having or relating to a system of government in which several states form a unity but remain independent in internal affairs: Russia's federal and local governments. ∎  of, relating to, or denoting the central government as distinguished from the separate units constituting a federation: the federal agency that provides legal services to the poor. ∎  of, relating to, or denoting the central government of the U.S. ∎  (Federal) hist. of the Northern States in the Civil War.DERIVATIVES: fed·er·al·i·za·tion n.fed·er·al·ize v.fed·er·al·ly adv.


views updated Jun 27 2018


Relating to the general government or union of the states; based upon, or created pursuant to, the laws of the Constitution of the United States.

The United States has traditionally been named a federal government in most political and judicial writings. The term federal has not been prescribed by any definite authority but is used to express a broad opinion concerning the nature of the form of government.

A recent tendency has been to use the term national in place of federal to denote the government of the Union. Neither settles any question regarding the nature of authority of the government.

The term federal is generally considered to be more appropriate if the government is to be viewed as a union of the states. National is used to reflect the view that individual state governments and the Union as a whole are two distinct and separate systems, each of which is established directly by the population for local and national purposes, respectively.

In a more general sense, federal is ordinarily used to refer to a league or compact between two or more states to become joined under one central government.


views updated May 17 2018

federal XVII. f. L. fœdus, fœder- covenant; see -AL1.
Hence federalism, federalist XVIII, federalize XIX. So federation XVIII.


views updated May 14 2018

Federal designating the Northern States in the American Civil War.

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