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Commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically, it has sometimes been synonymous with "republic".

More recently it has been used for fraternal associations of some sovereign nations.



The English noun commonwealth in the sense meaning "public welfare; general good or advantage" dates from the fifteenth century.[1] The original phrase "the common-wealth" or "the common weal" (echoed in the modern synonym "public weal") comes from the old meaning of "wealth," which is "well-being." The term literally meant "common well-being". In the seventeenth century the definition of "commonwealth" expanded from its original sense of "public welfare" or "commonweal," to mean "a state in which the supreme power is vested in the people; a republic or democratic state."[2]

The term commonwealth has its root in the complex Latin concept res publica[citation needed].

Historic usage


The Icelandic Commonwealth or the Icelandic Free State (Icelandic: Þjóðveldið) was the state existing in Iceland between the establishment of the Althing in 930 and the pledge of fealty to the Norwegian king in 1262. It was initially established by a public consisting largely of recent immigrants from Norway who had fled the unification of that country under King Harald Fairhair.

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