The Constitution of the United States

The Constitution is, quite simply, the basis of American democracy. The document details what the branches of government must do, what they are entitled to do, and what they cannot do. Read the full text here.
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Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. ordain
    order by virtue of superior authority; decree
    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, 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.
  2. enumeration
    the act of counting; reciting numbers in ascending order
    The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.
  3. writ
    a legal document issued by a court or judicial officer
    When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.
  4. impeachment
    a formal document charging a public official with misconduct
    The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.
  5. affirmation
    a solemn declaration serving the same purpose as an oath
    The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation.
  6. concurrence
    agreement of results or opinions
    When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
  7. indictment
    a formal document charging a person with some offense
    Judgment in Cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
  8. quorum
    a gathering of the minimal number of members of a group
    Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.
  9. adjourn
    break from a meeting or gathering
    Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.
  10. privileged
    not subject to usual rules or penalties
    They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
  11. emolument
    compensation received by virtue of holding an office
    No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.
  12. respectively
    in the order given
    But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively.
  13. excise
    a tax that is measured by the amount of business done
    The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States...
  14. naturalization
    the proceeding whereby a foreigner is granted citizenship
    To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States
  15. tribunal
    an assembly to conduct judicial business
    To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court
  16. reprisal
    a retaliatory action against an enemy in wartime
    To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water
  17. appropriation
    money set aside for a specific purpose, as by a legislature
    To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years
  18. insurrection
    organized opposition to authority
    To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions
  19. cession
    the act of surrendering possession or control
    To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings...
  20. magazine
    a storehouse where weapons and ammunition are stored
    To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings...
  21. forego
    be earlier in time; go back further
    To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
  22. habeas corpus
    a writ ordering a prisoner to be brought before a judge
    The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
  23. bill of attainder
    a legislative act pronouncing a person's guilt without trial
    No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
  24. ex post facto
    affecting things past
    No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
  25. census
    a periodic count of the population
    No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
  26. confederation
    the act of forming an alliance
    No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
  27. duty
    a government tax on imports or exports
    No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.
  28. tonnage
    a tax imposed on ships that enter the US
    No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.
  29. imminent
    close in time; about to occur
    No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.
  30. devolve
    pass on or delegate to another
    In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.
  31. reprieve
    the act of postponing or remitting punishment
    The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
  32. vest
    provide with power and authority
    ...but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
  33. misdemeanor
    a crime less serious than a felony
    The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
  34. equity
    conformity with rules or standards
    The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;—to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;—to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction...
  35. maritime
    relating to ships or navigation
    The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;—to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;—to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction...
  36. levy
    cause to assemble or enlist in the military
    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.
  37. overt
    open and observable; not secret or hidden
    No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
  38. forfeiture
    the act of losing something as a penalty
    The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
  39. immunity
    an act exempting someone
    The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.
  40. construe
    make sense of; assign a meaning to
    The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.
Created on September 23, 2019 (updated September 24, 2019)

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