Dictionary.com

federal

[ fed-er-uhl ]
/ ˈfɛd ər əl /
Save This Word!

adjective
noun
an advocate of federation or federalism.
(initial capital letter)U.S. History.
  1. a Federalist.
  2. an adherent of the Union government during the Civil War; Unionist.
  3. a soldier in the Federal army.
QUIZ
ARE YOU A TRUE BLUE CHAMPION OF THESE "BLUE" SYNONYMS?
We could talk until we're blue in the face about this quiz on words for the color "blue," but we think you should take the quiz and find out if you're a whiz at these colorful terms.
Question 1 of 8
Which of the following words describes “sky blue”?
Meet Grammar CoachWrite or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar helpImprove Your Writing
Meet Grammar CoachImprove Your Writing
Write or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar help

Origin of federal

First recorded in16205–30; earlier foederal, from Latin foeder- (stem of foedus ) “formal agreement, treaty, league” + -al1

historical usage of federal

English federal comes from the Latin noun foedus (stem foeder- ) “a formal agreement between states, peoples, or private persons, a league, treaty (of alliance or peace), a marriage compact.” Foedus is related to the Latin verb fīdere “to trust, trust in, have confidence in,” the adjective fīdus “faithful loyal” (Abraham Lincoln owned a dog named Fido), and the noun fidēs “trust, state of being trusted.” Latin fidēs is the ultimate source of English words such as fidelity, fealty, infidel, and faith.
The earliest use of federal had to do with a treaty or covenant, especially a covenant between God and an individual. The meaning “relating to a union of states under a central government” appeared in 1703, probably arising from the contextual meaning of the term federal union —in other words, a union based on a treaty. Soon after American independence, federal was used to refer specifically to the national government of the United States.

OTHER WORDS FROM federal

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH federal

federal , national
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

How to use federal in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for federal (1 of 2)

federal
/ (ˈfɛdərəl) /

adjective
of or relating to a form of government or a country in which power is divided between one central and several regional governments
of or relating to a treaty between provinces, states, etc, that establishes a political unit in which power is so divided
of or relating to the central government of a federation
of or relating to any union or association of parties or groups that retain some autonomy
(of a university) comprised of relatively independent colleges
noun
a supporter of federal union or federation

Derived forms of federal

federally, adverb

Word Origin for federal

C17: from Latin foedus league

British Dictionary definitions for federal (2 of 2)

Federal
/ (ˈfɛdərəl) /

adjective
  1. of or relating to the Federalist party or Federalism
  2. characteristic of or supporting the Union government during the American Civil War
noun
  1. a supporter of the Union government during the American Civil War
  2. a Federalist
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
FEEDBACK