banana republic

noun Usually Disparaging.

any of the small countries in the tropics, especially in the Western Hemisphere, whose economies are largely dependent on fruit exports, tourism, and foreign investors.

Origin of banana republic

First recorded in 1930–35

Usage note

This term typically refers to a dictatorship that exploits agricultural workers. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for banana republics

banana republic


derogatory a small country, esp in Central America, that is politically unstable and has an economy dominated by foreign interest, usually dependent on one export, such as bananas
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

Word Origin and History for banana republics

banana republic


"small Central American state with an economy dependent on banana production," 1901, American English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for banana republics

banana republics

A term describing any of several small nations in Latin America that have economies based on a few agricultural crops.


The term banana republic is often used in a disparaging sense; it suggests an unstable government.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.