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See also: Commonwealth


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From common (public) +‎ wealth (well-being). From c. 1450 as common wele (commonweal). In the form common-wealth (common welthe) from c. 1520, used by Tyndale in the sense "secular society" in particular, for which other authors preferred publike weal. Also from the 1520s treated as a synonym or loan-translation of res publica (republic) (Rollison 2017:67f).



commonwealth (plural commonwealths)

  1. (obsolete) The well-being of a community.
  2. The entirety of a (secular) society, a polity, a state.
    • c. 1526, Tyndale's Bible, Ephesians 2:12
      Remeber I saye yt ye were at that tyme wt oute Christ and were reputed aliantes from the comen welth [πολιτεία (politeía)] of Israel and were straugers fro the testamentes of promes and had no hope and were with out god in this worlde.
    • 1610-11, William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act II Scene 1
      I'th' commonwealth I would by contraries
      Execute all things, for no kind of traffic
      Would I admit; no name of magistrate;
      Letters should not be known; riches, poverty,
      And use of service, none; contract, succession,
      Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none;
      No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil;
      No occupation, all men idle, all,
      And women too, but innocent and pure;
      No sovereignty——
  3. Republic. Often capitalized, as Commonwealth.
    • 1649, Act of the Long Parliament
      Be it declared and enacted by this present Parliament and by the Authoritie of the same That the People of England and of all the Dominions and Territoryes thereunto belonging are and shall be and are hereby constituted, made, established, and confirmed to be a Commonwealth and free State And shall from henceforth be Governed as a Commonwealth and Free State by the supreame Authoritie of this Nation, the Representatives of the People in Parliam[ent] and by such as they shall appoint and constitute as Officers and Ministers under them for the good of the People and that without any King or House of Lords.

Derived terms[edit]

For example, the official name of Australia is Commonwealth of Australia. It is applied to four states of the United States, to wit, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Also used by self-governing, semi-autonomous units such as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Related terms[edit]



  • David Rollison, A Commonwealth of the People: Popular Politics and England's Long Social Revolution, 1066-1649, Cambridge University Press, (2010), p. 13.
  • David Rollison in: Fitter (ed.), Shakespeare and the Politics of Commoners: Digesting the New Social History, Oxford University Press, (2017), 64–83.