State, Etymology

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Summary

A state is an organized community living under one government. States may be sovereign. The term state is also applied to federated states that are members of a federal union, which is the sovereign state. Some states are subject to external sovereignty or hegemony where ultimate sovereignty lies in another state. The state can also be used to refer to the secular branches of government within a state, often as a manner of contrasting them with churches and civilian institutions.

Details

The word state and its cognates in some other European languages (stato in Italian, estado in Spanish, état in French, Staat in German) ultimately derive from the Latin word status, meaning "condition" or "status."

With the revival of the Roman law in 14th-century Europe, this Latin term came to refer to the legal standing of persons (such as the various "estates of the realm" - noble, common, and clerical), and in particular the special status of the king. The word also had associations with Roman ideas (dating back to Cicero) about the "status rei publicae", the "condition of public matters". In time, the word lost its reference to particular social groups and became associated with the legal order of the entire society and the apparatus of its enforcement.

In English, "state" came about as a contraction of the word "estate", which is similar to the old French estat and the modern French état, both of which signify that a person has status and therefore estate. The highest estates, generally those with the most wealth and social rank, were those that held power.Vincent, 1992: p. 43Copyright: Attribute—Share Alike

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