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I'm not sure if this questions belongs in the philosophical forum or here, but I'll give it a try anyway: what is the difference between nation and people? Is there an overlapping meaning or do they just happen to coincidentally exist on the same instance? Or is it even an exact synonym?

note: I'm not talking about the meaning of nation as country.

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You've clarified what you don't mean: how about clarifying what you do mean, maybe by using some examples. Do you mean something like What's the difference between referring to the British nation and the British people? –  TrevorD Jun 12 '13 at 15:27
    
Yes, that is my question. I mean, are they both exact synonyms of ethnicity, or are there instances where I can describe an entity as 'a people' but not 'a nation' or vice versa. –  Matthaeus Jun 13 '13 at 0:18
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@Matthaeus: I would say people is a much broader term than nation. They are synonymous only in certain contexts. E.g, you could say 'the people of southern California' but I doubt they could be considered a 'nation'. –  Snubian Jun 13 '13 at 0:31
    
@Matthaeus: just to add - it's interesting that the use of 'nation' to describe a group of people with shared identity, culture, etc seems nowadays to be used almost exclusively with respect to groups who do not have a homeland or nation in the modern sense, such as the Roma, north American indigenous peoples, and so on. –  Snubian Jun 13 '13 at 0:36
    
There are no such things as exact synonyms. Every different sound has its own nuances. Frankly even a word itself isn't always an exact synonym with itself (it can have multiple nuances). Here, 'nation' is more formal, 'people' is medium and boring, and folk is ... well.. folksy. –  Mitch Jun 13 '13 at 2:09
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2 Answers 2

The word nation has its origin in the Latin natio-, from nat- meaning 'born'. It refers to a body of people united by birth, history, language, culture, and so on. The idea of a nation as a sovereign state came later, the notion of borders being a relatively recent invention.

Consider the term First Nations, which is used to refer to the indigenous peoples of Canada, for example. The term is also applied to other groups of people who are without a country (in the modern sense), such as the Roma.

The term people (from Latin populus) can be defined as above for nation. I would say the two words are synonymous in this context.

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Sovereignty comes from the nation. Nation is different from the people;It covers not only the people living currently but also those in the past.

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