I'm a non-native speaker . I noticed that there are two kinds of statement to describe polity , federal republic of Germany and commonwealth of Austrilia . So I'm confusing what's the difference between federal republic and commonwealth?

  • Federal Republic is a form of government. Commonwealth is a (member of) a group of countries that includes Australia among others. The terms are not related and definitely not alternatives. To understand better, you can ask on a relevant Q&A site.
    – Kris
    Jan 20, 2014 at 5:57
  • 1
    Note to above commenters: Australia calls itself the Commonwealth of Australia. It's a federal set-up of self-governing states under a common overall authority (under the Queen, so it's not a republic). The Commonwealth of Nations is different.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jan 20, 2014 at 7:49

1 Answer 1


The obvious answer is that Australia is not a republic: it still has a Queen. Consequently it isn't called a Federal Republic. The country does have a Federal construction, with a number of self-governing states and territories [for example, a car will need to be re-registered if transferred between states], and the Federal capital in its own territory outside the other states. This structure mirrors the United States of America.

In the case of Australia, the structure is historical as the states/territories were originally separate British colonies, becoming a federated colony which they called a Commonwealth on 1 January 1901 and independent in 1942 (backdated to 1939). Each separate colony retained a degree of independence from its neighbours and the whole.

The word commonwealth means of or for the common good (cf weal).

weal noun [mass noun]
• formal
that which is best for someone or something:
   I am holding this trial behind closed doors in the public weal

Federal is an adjective, so had it been decided in 1901 or 1942 to use that word, it would have needed a noun to go with it, and Republic is obviously inappropriate. The word Commonwealth, with the constituent common, does indicate some sort of commonality between separate entities and can thus indicate a federation without requiring either an additional noun or a separate “federal” adjective.

  • 1
    Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky are also Commonwealths. Here the word did not have anything to do with commonality between separate entities. Rather, at the time of the American Revolution the states adopted this name to indicate that the government would work for the benefit of the citizens. Jan 20, 2014 at 15:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.