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[kom-uh n-welth] /ˈkɒm ənˌwɛlθ/
(initial capital letter) a group of sovereign states and their dependencies associated by their own choice and linked with common objectives and interests:
the British Commonwealth.
the Commonwealth, Commonwealth of Nations.
(initial capital letter) a federation of states:
the Commonwealth of Australia.
(initial capital letter) a self-governing territory associated with the U.S.: official designation of Puerto Rico.
(initial capital letter) English History. the English government from the abolition of the monarchy in 1649 until the establishment of the Protectorate in 1653, sometimes extended to include the restoration of Charles II in 1660.
(initial capital letter) the official designation (rather than “State”) of four states of the U.S.: Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
any group of persons united by some common interest.
the whole body of people of a nation or state; the body politic.
a state in which the supreme power is held by the people; a republican or democratic state.
Obsolete. the public welfare.
Origin of commonwealth
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English commun welthe

Commonwealth of Nations

a voluntary association of independent nations and dependent territories linked by historical ties (as parts of the former British Empire) and cooperating on matters of mutual concern, especially regarding economics and trade.
Also called the Commonwealth.
Formerly British Commonwealth, British Commonwealth of Nations. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for commonwealth
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In no other country have the wounds of the commonwealth been so carefully probed.

    Colloquies on Society Robert Southey
  • And the real end of both was the weal of the commonwealth at large.

  • If he had but a small retinue, he might have been killed by the enemies of the commonwealth.

  • It was sold during the commonwealth, and bought by the parishioners for £100.

    Exeter Sidney Heath
  • He was dispossessed as a "malignant" during the commonwealth, but returned at the Restoration.

    Wanderings in Wessex Edric Holmes
British Dictionary definitions for commonwealth


the people of a state or nation viewed politically; body politic
a state or nation in which the people possess sovereignty; republic
the body politic organized for the general good
a group of persons united by some common interest
(obsolete) the general good; public welfare


noun the Commonwealth
an association of sovereign states, almost all of which were at some time dependencies of the UK. All member states recognize the reigning British sovereign as Head of the Commonwealth Official name the Commonwealth of Nations
  1. the republic that existed in Britain from 1649 to 1660
  2. the part of this period up to 1653, when Cromwell became Protector
the official designation of Australia, four states of the US (Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia), and Puerto Rico
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for commonwealth

late 15c., "public welfare, general good," from common (adj.) + wealth (n.); meaning "the state" is attested from 1510s; applied specifically to the government of England in the period 1649-1660.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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commonwealth in Culture

Commonwealth definition

A government established in Britain and Ireland in 1649, after the execution of King Charles I. It was in the form of a republic, under the leadership of the parliament. Oliver Cromwell soon assumed the supreme power in the Commonwealth and was given the title Lord Protector. After Cromwell's death in 1658, the Commonwealth quickly lost power, and the Restoration of the monarchy followed in 1660.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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