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Commonwealth vs. Republic: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
A Commonwealth is a political community founded for the common good, often linked to the British Crown, while a Republic is a state where power is held by the people or their elected representatives.
Commonwealth vs. Republic

Key Differences

A Commonwealth often has a symbolic tie to the British monarchy but operates independently, while a Republic is characterized by a form of government where the head of state is an elected or nominated president.
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Many Commonwealth countries share a historical connection with the British Empire, whereas Republics have been established around various concepts of democracy and representation, separate from monarchical or colonial rule.
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In Commonwealth nations, the monarch holds more symbolic than actual power, with real political power lying in the hands of elected officials. In contrast, a Republic operates without a monarchy, emphasizing elected or chosen leaders.
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Being part of the Commonwealth can influence a nation's identity and international relations, reflecting shared history and values. A Republic's identity is often tied to its democratic values and the concept of sovereignty residing with the people.
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Comparison Chart

Head of State

Often a monarch, mostly symbolic
An elected or nominated president
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Power Source

Symbolic ties to British monarchy, self-governed
Power rests with the people or their representatives
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Government Type

Can vary, but operates independently
Defined by elected officials and no monarchy
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Historical Ties

Often linked to former British Empire
Based on principles of democracy and representation
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National Identity

Influenced by historical ties and shared values
Defined by democratic values and people's sovereignty
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Commonwealth and Republic Definitions

Commonwealth

A self-governing territory.
The Commonwealth of Virginia is known for its historical significance.
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Republic

A country with elected representatives.
France is a republic with a strong democratic tradition.
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Commonwealth

An association with common political interests.
The Commonwealth emphasizes human rights and democratic principles.
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Republic

A state without a monarchy.
The United States is a republic, not a monarchy.
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Commonwealth

A union of states for mutual benefit.
Australia is a Commonwealth comprising several states.
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Republic

A state prioritizing the welfare of its people.
The welfare programs in this republic aim to support all citizens.
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Commonwealth

A group of sovereign states united by common objectives.
The Commonwealth of Nations promotes international cooperation.
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Republic

A system where citizens hold power.
In the Italian Republic, citizens vote to elect their leaders.
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Commonwealth

Nations historically connected to the British Empire.
India was once part of the British Commonwealth.
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Republic

A country led by a chosen head of state.
The president is the head of the Republic of Korea.
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Commonwealth

The people of a nation or state; the body politic.
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Republic

A political order whose head of state is not a monarch and in modern times is usually a president.
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Commonwealth

A nation or state governed by the people; a republic.
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Republic

A nation that has such a political order.
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Commonwealth

Used to refer to some US states, namely, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
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Republic

A political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them.
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Commonwealth

Used to refer to a self-governing, autonomous political unit voluntarily associated with the United States, namely, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.
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Republic

A nation that has such a political order.
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Commonwealth

Often Commonwealth The Commonwealth of Nations.
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Republic

Often Republic A specific republican government of a nation
The Fourth Republic of France.
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Commonwealth

The English state and government from the death of Charles I in 1649 to the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, including the Protectorate of 1653 to 1659.
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Republic

An autonomous or partially autonomous political and territorial unit belonging to a sovereign federation.
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Commonwealth

(Archaic) The public good; commonweal.
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Republic

A group of people working as equals in the same sphere or field
The republic of letters.
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Commonwealth

The well-being of a community.
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Republic

A state where sovereignty rests with the people or their representatives, rather than with a monarch or emperor; a country with no monarchy.
The United States is a republic; the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a constitutional monarchy.
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Commonwealth

The entirety of a (secular) society, a polity, a state.
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Republic

(archaic) A state, which may or may not be a monarchy, in which the executive and legislative branches of government are separate.
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Commonwealth

Republic. Often capitalized, as Commonwealth.
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Republic

One of the subdivisions constituting Russia. See oblast.
The Republic of Udmurtia is west of the Permian Oblast.
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Commonwealth

A state; a body politic consisting of a certain number of men, united, by compact or tacit agreement, under one form of government and system of laws.
The trappings of a monarchy would set up an ordinary commonwealth.
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Republic

Common weal.
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Commonwealth

The whole body of people in a state; the public.
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Republic

A state in which the sovereign power resides in the whole body of the people, and is exercised by representatives elected by them; a commonwealth. Cf. Democracy, 2.
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Commonwealth

Specifically, the form of government established on the death of Charles I., in 1649, which existed under Oliver Cromwell and his son Richard, ending with the abdication of the latter in 1659.
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Republic

A political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them
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Commonwealth

The official name of some states in the United States (Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and Virginia and Kentucky) and associated territories (Puerto Rico)
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Republic

A form of government whose head of state is not a monarch;
The head of state in a republic is usually a president
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Commonwealth

A politically organized body of people under a single government;
The state has elected a new president
African nations
Students who had come to the nation's capitol
The country's largest manufacturer
An industrialized land
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Commonwealth

A world organization of autonomous states that are united in allegiance to a central power but are not subordinate to it or to one another
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Commonwealth

A political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

Is the term "commonwealth" used in a modern context?

Yes, it's used to describe certain political communities, like the Commonwealth of Nations.
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How does a republic differ from a commonwealth?

A republic is a state where the supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives.
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Do republics have a monarch?

Typically, republics do not have a monarch; power lies with elected officials.
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What is a commonwealth?

A commonwealth is a political community founded for the common good.
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Can a commonwealth be a republic?

Yes, a commonwealth can function as a republic with elected representatives.
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What’s a common feature of commonwealths?

A common feature is the pursuit of the common good for its members.
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Are all republics democratic?

Most republics are democratic, but the term doesn't exclusively imply democracy.
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How does governance differ in a commonwealth?

Governance in a commonwealth varies but often includes a shared commitment to mutual welfare.
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Does a commonwealth have a constitution?

Many commonwealths have a constitution or a similar foundational document.
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Does a republic have a centralized government?

Most republics have a centralized government, but the structure can vary.
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Are Commonwealth countries part of the UK?

Not necessarily; many are independent and have historical ties to the UK.
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How do laws work in a republic?

Laws in a republic are typically made by elected legislators.
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Is the Commonwealth of Nations a political union?

It's more of a cooperative organization than a political union.
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What kind of government does a republic have?

A republic has a government where officials are elected by the people.
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Can a state be both a commonwealth and a republic?

Yes, a state can be both, depending on its constitution and governance structure.
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Can a commonwealth be a monarchy?

Yes, a commonwealth can also be a monarchy, like the Commonwealth realms.
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Is citizenship different in a commonwealth?

Citizenship rules in a commonwealth depend on its laws and regulations.
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What defines a republic’s identity?

A republic’s identity is defined by its commitment to represent the people's will.
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What is the head of state in a republic?

The head of state in a republic is usually a president or an elected official.
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What’s the role of the people in a republic?

The people play a crucial role in electing representatives and influencing governance.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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