General English


  • adjective referring to a system of government where a group of states are linked together in a federation


  • adjective referring especially to the central government of the United States
  • abbreviationfed.


  • suffix meaning ‘using a particular type of paper’

Origin & History of “federal”

The modern political use of federal and its various derivatives is a comparatively recent development, ushered in by the formation of the USA in the late 18th century. Its original meaning was ‘of a league or treaty’ (it was formed from Latin foedus ‘league, treaty’, which came from the same ultimate Indo-European base – *bhidh-, *bhoidh- – as faith), and its application to a ‘joining together of states into a single unit’ seems to have arisen from such phrases as federal union, which would originally have meant ‘union by treaty’.