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The Constitution of the United States
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Glossary of Terms Related to the US Constitution

allegiance - Loyalty to a nation, organization, or cause.

amend - To make a minor change in.

amendment - A change added onto the US Constitution (or other document) that adds new meaning. There are 27 amendments to the US Constitution (as of 2005); the first 10 amendments are called the Bill of Rights.

Bill of Rights - The first 10 amendments to the US Constitution are called the Bill of Rights.

bicameral - consisting of two legislative branches, like the US Congress, which consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

branches of government - In the US, there are three branches of government: the legislative, the executive and the judicial.

census - an official count of the number of people in a region. The survey is done by a government, usually periodically. The US census has been taken every 10 years since 1790 (in years ending in zero); this as mandated by the US Constitution. The results of the US census are used to determine how many members of the US House of Representatives represent an area, and to allocate federal funding for local programs.

checks and balances - Checks and balances refers to a system in which separate, powerful entities (like the three branches of the US government) check (monitor) the behavior of each other, having the effect of keeping an even balance of power. The phrase "checks and balances" was coined by Charles-Louis Montesquieu (a French political philosopher) in 1748; he also wrote about dividing the power of a government into a Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branch.

citizen - A person who is born in a country or a person who has legally established his or her allegiance to that country.

constitution - A document outlining the basis of the rules of a country or organization.

convention - An official meeting.

debt - Something that is owed, such as money.

election - A process in which political representatives are chosen by ballot.

executive branch - The part of the US government that administers the laws and other affairs of the government; it includes the President (also called the Chief Executive), the President's staff, executive agencies (the Office of Management and Budget, the National Security Council, etc.) and Cabinet departments (like the State Department, the Dept. of Defense, the Dept. of Agriculture, etc.).

Federal government - Pertaining to the national or central government.

Founding Fathers - The men whose actions were responsible for creating the United States of America and the US Constitution.

Framers of the US Constitution - The framers are the men who wrote the US Constitution, including George Washington (the first President of the USA), James Madison (the fourth President of the USA), Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and others.

government - A system by which a country or other political unit is organized and controlled.

judicial - Of or about a court or judge.

judicial branch - The part of the US government that settles disputes and administers justice. The judicial branch is made up of the court system, including US District Courts, many Federal courts, the US Court of Appeals (also called the Federal Circuit Courts), and the Supreme Court.

legislate - To make laws.

legislative branch - The part of the US government that makes the laws and appropriates funds. The Legislative Branch includes the US House of Representative and Senate (including congressional staffs and committees) plus support agencies (like the General Accounting Office, the Congressional Budget Office, the Library of Congress, etc.). The number of seats that a state has in the House of Representatives is based upon the state's population. Each state has two Senators.

legislature - A body of people which makes laws.

monarchy - A form of government in which a King or Queen is in charge of the country.

oath - A formal declaration to fulfill a pledge or promise.

Preamble - The short introduction to the US Constitution, which reads, "We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

President - The elected leader of the USA (and head of the Executive Branch).

ratify - To sign or agree to something in order to make it official.

ratification - The states' approval of the Constitution or an amendment to the Constitution.

republic - A form of government in which citizens vote for representatives who decide upon important issues.

separation of powers - The idea that the powers of a government should be split between two or more independent groups, so that any one person or group cannot gain too much power. For example, in the US Constitution, governmental power is split among the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches.

suffrage - The right to vote.

Supreme Court - The highest court in the USA.

US Constitution - The official document that is the basis of government and law in the United States. It was written in 1787, and ratified in 1789. Many amendments have been added since then.

Related Pages:

Vocabulary Quiz #1

Define five terms related to the US Constitution, including Preamble, Legislative branch, Executive branch, Judicial branch, and Amendment. Or go to the answers.

Vocabulary Quiz #2

Define five terms related to the US Constitution, including Constitution, Framers of the Constitution, Checks and Balances, Suffrage, and Bill of Rights. Or go to the answers.

Write Constitution-Related Definitions

In this worksheet, write the definition of a word, what part of speech it is, and use it in a sentence. Words: preamble, constitution, ratify, amend, amendment, government, legislate, bicameral, election, judicial. Or go to the answers. Or go to a pdf of the questions and answers (subscribers only).

US Constitution Vocabulary Word List

A list of words related to the US Constitution.

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