While writing this comment on the "Despise the rich" question:

Well, during the October Revolution, the bolsheviks overthrew the bourgeoisie and the peasants overthrew the kulaks, expropriating and redistributing their wealth among the populace. In Marxist theory, the working class people who are eternally pitted against the historical owners of the means of production are known as the proletariat, derived from its origins in Roman law.

I ended up using the verb expropriate, but that wasn't the one I was reaching for. I have a recollection that there's another, more specific, and morphologically more obvious synonym (perhaps derived from the root public).

What are other words which describe the act of the government (often forcibly) taking ownership of private property, so that the property is under the collective ownership of the public?

After the Revolution, the new communist Cuban government ___ized many sugar mills, angering foreign interests who had invested in their creation.

Note: the word is not "eminent domain", which describes a policy which permits the act I'm describing, nor is it expropriate nor appropriate, which are often used in contemporary discussions of governments making use of eminent domain.

  • 1
    Maybe governmentalize is even more specific.
    – ermanen
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 18:50
  • @ermanen Wow, I didn't even know that was a word. Thanks for teaching me something new!
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 18:51
  • One of slogans during Soviet expropriation was "Rob the robbed", a Lenin's translation of "expropriation der expropriateure"... so i think the term robbery has a right to be used here :) Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 7:50
  • @EugenePetrov: Isn't that "rob the robbers"?
    – MSalters
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 13:47
  • @MSalters the sense is similar, but literally translated it was 'things that was robbed' ("грабь награбленное") Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 13:57

6 Answers 6


I think the term you are looking for is to nationalize:

  • to bring under the ownership or control of a nation, as industries and land.

    • a movement to nationalize the oil industry.


  • I thought "nationalize" was mainly used regarding foreign-owned assets, and the government control was incidental. Of course, it applies reasonably well to OP's case regardless.
    – Random832
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 4:36

The word nationalize means bring under control of a nation, however, you might also consider collectivize, particularly if you are talking about the peasants in the former Soviet Union, where the agricultural policy was called collectivization.

  • Yes, nationalize was the word I was looking for, but I'm very happy to learn the USSR-specific term collectivization, which I've never encountered before (or had, and simply forgot). +1.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 18:41

"Nationalizing" is not incorrect, but given Marxist ideology, probably would not have been used by the actors in question.

"Collectivizing" is probably what they would have used at the time.

"Seizing" would also work, particularly if you wanted to put a negative spin on things, however, it probably lacks the "for the good of the public" intention.

  • Thanks, after your edit clarifying the missing connotation of seizing, I think that word can stand as an answer. I would council you to either credit the other posters who previously suggested nationalizing and collectivizing, respectively, or remove those words from your answer (as it stands, you answer has the appearance of stepping on their toes). I'd also suggest you move seizing to the top of your answer, as it is the novel part of your response.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 21:32
  • "for the good of the public" isn't relevant in this context. The rationale was "for the good of the (communist) Party". The reason why "for the good of the public" doesn't make sense is that in Marxist-Leninist ideology, "the public" implies a single class whereas this collectivization was part of class warfare.
    – MSalters
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 13:37

A specific verb would be govermentalize.

to bring under governmental, or national, control [Collins]

Additionally, the following verbs are mentioned in the book Privatization: The Key to Better Government by Emanuel S. Savas:

  • municipalize
  • statify
  • deprivatize
  • Heh, deprivatize (~ deprive, deprivations). Thank you.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 19:05

I'm surprised nobody suggested this: stealing

  • In context, this is a correct word. Under Eminent Domain, the government may forcefully acquire certain goods or lands, but only at a fair price. The Communist governments mentioned in the question had no intent of paying at all, let alone a fair price. In fact, as a former Russian land owner, you'd be lucky to survive Stalin. It literally was armed robbery.
    – MSalters
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 13:40

From the perspective of a citizen of a former communist country:

  • collectivization was used mainly in the context of agriculture and even then it was (I think) meant as a one-time, already completed act (~1950 thing in our country)
  • nationalization was used in the general context - you could have nationalized industry, factories, services, farms ... We were even celebrating Day of Nationalization :).

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