Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of nation


  1. A group or race of people that share history, traditions and culture. The United Kingdom is comprised of four nations or national groups: the English, Scots, Irish and Welsh. Canada includes French-Canadians, English-Canadians and a number of aboriginal nations. Thus, states may be comprised of one or several nations. It is common English to use the word "nation" when referring to what is known in law as "states."

Definition of nation


  • enPR: nā'shən, IPA: /ˈneɪʃən/, SAMPA: /"neIS@n/
  • Audio (US) [?]
  • Rhymes: -eɪʃən

Etymology 1

    Middle English nation, nacioun from Old French nation, nacion from Latin nationem, accusative of natio, (g)natio "nation, race, birth" from (g)natus, past participle stem of (g)nasci "to be born". Displaced native Middle English theode, thede "nation" (from Old English ēod), Middle English burthe "birth, nation, race, nature", Middle English leod, leode, lede "people, race" (from Old English lēod).


nation (plural nations)

  1. A group of people sharing aspects of language, culture and/or ethnicity.

    The Roma are a nation without a country.

  2. A historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture

    The Kurdish people constitute a nation in the Middle East

  3. (law) (international law) A sovereign state.

    Though legally single nations, many states comprise several distinct cultural or ethnic groups.

Usage notes

(British) Following the establishment of the Scottish and Welsh parliaments, England, Scotland and Wales are normally considered distinct nations. Application of the term nation to the United Kingdom as a whole is deprecated in most style guides, including the BBC, most newspapers and in UK Government publications. Northern Ireland, being of less clear legal status, generally remains a province.

Derived terms

  • nation building
  • nation-state
  • United Nations
  • First Nations

See also

  • country
  • culture
  • homeland
  • ethnicity
  • people
  • race
  • society
  • state

Etymology 2

    Probably short for damnation



  1. Damnation.



  1. (chiefly dialectal) Extremely; very

    I'm nation sorry for you. -- Mark Twain


  • "Notable and Quotable," Merriam Webster Online Newsletter (November, 2005) [1] (as accessed on December 23, 2005).


  • Alphagram: ainnot
  • anoint
  • Tonian

Further reading

A nation is a body of people who share a real or imagined common history, culture, language or ethnic origin.[1] The development and conceptualization of the nation is closely related to the development of modern industrial states and nationalist movements in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries,[2] although nationalists would trace nations into the past along an uninterrupted lines of historical narrative.[3]

Benedict Anderson argued that nations were "imagined communities" because "the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion", and traced their origins back to vernacular print journalism, which by its very nature was limited with linguistic zones and addressed a common audience.[4]

Though "nation" is also commonly used in informal discourse as a synonym for state or country, a nation is not identical to a state. Countries where the social concept of "nation" coincides with the political concept of "state" are called nation states.


  1. "Nation", The New Oxford American Dictionary, Second Edn., Erin McKean (editor), 2051 pages, May 2005, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-517077-6.
  2. Dictionary of the History of Ideas: s.v. "Nationalism"
  3. Thus the Irish Declaration of Independence traced the Irish people's struggle against English rule for some 700 hundred years.
  4. Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities, p. 6-7. ISBN 0-86091-329-5


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     warrant
2.     tampering
3.     emtio
4.     amnesty law
5.     magistrates court
6.     lex fori
7.     landed property
8.     lex situs
9.     lex causae
10.     ownership