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Off topic: United States: What is the difference between a commonwealth and a state?
Thread poster: RHELLER
United States
Local time: 20:21
French to English
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Jan 26, 2005

I am posting this for the information of proz users after a discussion today on a kudoz question.

Just an interesting point of information. Disclaimer: this is informational and does not concern politics in any way.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

In the terminology of the United States insular areas, a commonwealth is an organized territory that has established with the Federal Government a more highly developed relationship, usually embodied in a written mutual agreement.

There are currently two United States insular areas holding the status of commonwealth, the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico.

The term must be distinguished from its usage in the names of the U.S. states of Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky, which officially describe themselves as "commonwealths" but hold the same legal and political status as other states of the Union.


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Neth. Antilles
Local time: 22:21
French to English
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Thanks, Rita, for taking the trouble to “light my lantern” … ;) Jan 26, 2005

I always suspected that it was a little bit of Southern snobbery that made Virginia into a Commonwealth instead of a State, and I’m now confirmed into my belief …
I have no further information to add to this topic, unfortunately …

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:21
English to Spanish
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Wikipedia Jan 26, 2005

Wikipedia has provided you with the correct answer. In translating (Spanish is my language) I always use "state" (estado) for those that are one of the 50 that call themselves "commonwealths" because there is no distinction in status.

For Puerto Rico it is "Estado Libre Asociado" in Spanish because the relationship is indeed a different one. It would be the same for the Mariana Islands, though I have never dealt with that area.

In your languages you may have to deal with that situation in a similar fashion.

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Ismael Torres
Local time: 22:21
English to Spanish
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Merriam Webster Dictionary Jan 27, 2005

On the term 'commonwealth', The Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary offers the following;

Main Entry:commonwealth
Pronunciation:-*welth also -*weltth
Date:15th century

1.archaic : COMMONWEAL 2

2 : a nation, state, or other political unit: as a : one founded on law and united by compact or tacit agreement of the people for the common good b : one in which supreme authority is vested in the people c : REPUBLIC

3 capitalized a : the English state from the death of Charles I in 1649 to the Restoration in 1660 b : PROTECTORATE 1b

4 : a state of the U.S. used officially of Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia

5 capitalized : a federal union of constituent states used officially of Australia

6 often capitalized : an association of self-governing autonomous states more or less loosely associated in a common allegiance (as to the British crown)

7 often capitalized : a political unit having local autonomy but voluntarily united with the U.S. used officially of Puerto Rico and of the Northern Mariana Islands

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Herve Clement Armand GOHOUNGO
Local time: 03:21
English to French
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A state may be a part of a commonwealth Jan 27, 2005

I am African, and here, when we hear about commonwealth we thing about England and it's former colonies (United States of America, Nigeria, Australia, Ghana,...). These states gather in a particular structure, to support each other or to creta a special tribune for their concerns, some rules are established and have to be followed. So a commonwealth take into account many states or governements, a state may be a part of a Commonwealth.

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