When a group of people or nations form an alliance, it is called a confederation, allowing each member to govern itself but agreeing to work together for common causes. Perhaps the best-known confederation was the South during the U.S. Civil War.

The noun confederation comes from the early 15th Century, meaning “an agreement.” Confederation is similar to the word "federation," but with important differences. Whereas a federation has a strong central government, a confederation is more of an agreement between separate bodies to cooperate with each other. The European alliance could be called a confederation, while the United States is a federation.

Definitions of confederation

n the state of being allied or confederated

Type of:
coalition, fusion
the state of being combined into one body

n the act of forming an alliance or confederation

Type of:
group action
action taken by a group of people

n a union of political organizations

confederacy, federation
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a federation of tribes (especially Native American tribes)
Creek Confederacy
a North American Indian confederacy organized by the Muskogee that dominated the southeastern part of the United States before being removed to Oklahoma
Hanseatic League
a commercial and defensive confederation of free cities in northern Germany and surrounding areas; formed in 1241 and most influential in the 14th century when it included over 100 towns and functioned as an independent political power; the last official assembly was held in 1669
federation of tribes, tribe
a federation (as of American Indians)
Type of:
a political unit formed from previously independent people or organizations

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