Today, in Greek/Latin class, my peer brought up an interesting question; what does the term republic mean to you? The United States of America is a constitutional republic and I’ve been born and raised there, so why did that question stop me in my tracks and prompt me to think? I don’t know, but it turns out, I really don’t know what a republic is. According to the Oxford Dictionary, republic is a noun which means ‘A state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.’ However, this baffled me even more.
My parents are from India and I visit my family there a lot. So, I’ve grown up watching Bollywood movies and hearing about the news in India. And not to bash on my own country, or tarnish India’s reputation, but India is a corrupt country. Most of the government officials take bribes and elect other corrupt government workers who have more authority and more power. In turn, this builds a corrupt government up. So, why doesn’t this happen in America?
Does this happen in America, too, but its kept on the down low? Is it done underground and secretly, or is there barely any corruption to begin with? I actually don’t know. Republic comes from the Latin words ‘res publica’ and can be roughly translated into ‘things/matters of the public’. My interpretation of this definition is that a republic should mean what democracy means to us today.
According to the Merriam-Webster, a democracy is a government that is by the people and follows the principle ‘majority rules. Interestingly, democracy comes from a Greek word, dēmokratia. Dēmokratia can be split into two parts: dēmos, meaning the people, and kratia, meaning power.
The beautiful thing about words is that they change meaning time after time. That’s why dictionaries are always being updated and making new editions. Some new words are created and some old ones change meaning. Either way, the history of words is interesting, whether it be republic vs. democracy, or the dumping of French into the English language after 1066, or anything in the English language. English is one of the hardest languages to learn and master because it has a lot of languages in it. Some words come from German, other words can be traced back to Latin and Greek, and some words can even come from Sanskrit!