Star-Spangled Vocabulary: Patriotic Words

Love of country is a powerful motivating force, leading us to vote, advocate, protest peacefully, and otherwise engage as citizens in an ongoing effort to improve our society. Learn this list and let your vocabulary flag fly!

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definitions & notes only words
  1. abolitionist
    a reformer who favors putting an end to slavery
    Rebecca Jimerson pays tribute to Harriet Tubman with an impassioned speech of hope, reminding everyone in attendance of the abolitionist’s contribution to American history.The Guardian (Jun 21, 2020)
    To abolish something is to ban, destroy, or do away with something. It comes from the Latin verb abolere, meaning "to destroy," which is where we get obliterate. Prior to the Civil War, abolitionists were Americans opposed to slavery and dedicated to making it illegal.
  2. anthem
    a song of devotion or loyalty
    While the National Football League finally blesses many players’ desire to kneel during the national anthem, Trump still curses it.New York Times (Jun 20, 2020)
  3. banner
    any distinctive flag
    A few dozen protesters carried a “Black Lives Matter” banner so long that it required three people to carry; it bore the words “Trump/Pence #Outnow.”Washington Post (Jun 20, 2020)
  4. constitution
    law determining the fundamental principles of a government
    However, a dozen marchers turned up and walked with signs that said “remember your oath” and “defend the constitution = black lives matter.”Washington Post (Jun 20, 2020)
    The Constitution is the legal document that created the United States of America, laying out the framework of laws upon which the society would be built. Other important words sharing the Latin root are constituent, meaning "parts forming a larger body" but in this context referring to voters, and statute, meaning "law."
  5. electorate
    the body of enfranchised citizens; those qualified to vote
    It should be noted that Monmouth did not interview a representative sample of Democratic voters nationwide, let alone the general electorate.New York Times (Jun 19, 2020)
  6. enfranchise
    grant voting rights
    One hundred years ago, the 19th Amendment enfranchised millions of women across the United States following a seven-decade campaign.Salon (Jun 9, 2020)
    Franchise is a French word meaning "freedom." To enfranchise someone is to give them freedom, and in modern usage specifically the freedom to vote or permission to run a particular business like a sports team or a fast food restaurant.
  7. jingoism
    fanatical patriotism
    The spectacle is overlaid with displays of patriotism and jingoism, games that begin with the unfurling of giant American flags and fly overs by military jets.New York Times (Dec 12, 2019)
    Like nationalism, jingoism is patriotism taken too far: the desire for one's country to be supreme at any cost, often involving military force.
  8. liberty
    freedom of choice
    Just as telling is his attitude toward his fellow citizens who would exercise their liberty to dissent.Washington Post (Jun 21, 2020)
  9. musket
    a muzzle-loading shoulder gun with a long barrel
    It’s startling to realize that Colt was born in 1814, just before British troops carrying flintlock muskets burned the White House.New York Times (May 26, 2020)
  10. nationalism
    the doctrine that your country's interests are superior
    Few sights are as instantly recognizable, and few sites speak more fully to American nationalism.Salon (Feb 9, 2019)
    Nationalism might not sound bad, since we're talking about patriotic words and loving one's country. But historically, nationalism often overlaps with fascism: with strongman leaders, racial or ethnic intolerance, and militarism.
  11. patriotic
    inspired by love for your country
    A patriotic send off for the first human spaceflight to orbit from American soil in nearly a decade.Washington Post (May 30, 2020)
    Patrios is Greek for "of one's fathers." This led to the Latin patriota, meaning "fellow-countryman," as in someone who shares the same fatherland.
  12. republic
    a form of government whose head of state is not a monarch
    When Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836, slavery was written into the new republic’s constitution.Fox News (Jun 19, 2020)
    The public in republic offers a hint at its definition: a country ruled democratically, by the people, without a king or other ruler. A Latin word, it referred to "affairs of state" or "the state" in ancient Rome in the republican period, during which Rome was a democracy. The Roman republic ended in 27 B.C.E., when the Senate granted Gaius Octavius sweeping powers, making him the first emperor.
  13. revolution
    the overthrow of a government by those who are governed
    The story follows the rule of the Egyptian pharaoh, who’s overthrown after spearheading a religious revolution.New York Times (Jun 20, 2020)
  14. suffrage
    a legal right to vote
    Cheryl Hill said that she was inspired by a Smithsonian exhibit she saw on the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, and wanted the feeling of voting at a polling place.Washington Post (Jun 16, 2020)
    Suffragium means "voting" or "the right to vote" in Latin, and after a journey through French it arrived in English. The suffragettes were American women who campaigned, advocated, and demonstrated for women's enfranchisement beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. Their fight concluded on August 26, 1920, with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Created on June 19, 2020 (updated July 8, 2020)

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