[fed-er-uh l]



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.

Origin of federal

1635–45; earlier foederal < Latin foeder- (stem of foedus) league + -al1
Related formsfed·er·al·ly, adverbfed·er·al·ness, nounnon·fed·er·al, adjectivequa·si-fed·er·al, adjectivequa·si-fed·er·al·ly, adverb
Can be confusedfederal national
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for federal



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


a supporter of federal union or federation
Derived Formsfederally, adverb

Word Origin for federal

C17: from Latin foedus league



  1. of or relating to the Federalist party or Federalism
  2. characteristic of or supporting the Union government during the American Civil War


  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

Word Origin and History for federal

1640s, as a theological term, from French fédéral, from Latin foedus (genitive foederis) "covenant, league, treaty, alliance," related to fides "faith" (see faith).

Meaning "pertaining to a treaty" (1650s) led to political sense of "state formed by agreement among independent states" (1707), from phrases like federal union "union based on a treaty," popularized by formation of U.S.A. 1776-1787.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper