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To the best of my knowledge there really isn't one. It is a historical naming issue. In the early days of colonization, commonwealth was practically synonymous with 'republic' or 'state'. Some preferred the term because they liked the implied meaning better. But I do not believe there is any meningful distinction that differentiates a commonwealth from a state. However, in modern parlance, there is a tendency to use the term commonwealth to refer to a government with local autonomy but which is a protectorate of some other nation as is the case with US held territories like Puerto Rico. However this modern spin on the word should not be taken as implying any legal distinction between US states which are commonwealths vs states that are not.

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Q: What is the difference between a US 'commonwealth' and a state?
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What is the difference between a 'commonwealth' and a 'state' In a commonwealth landowners do not possess mineral or oil rights to their land. They don't actually own their land but own its use.?

Numerous definitions can be applied to the term commonwealth. In its loosest form, commonwealth means for the common or public good, and is often a state formed for the common good of the people. The term commonwealth can also apply to a group of nations that have a loose alliance for the good of all members of each nation. Several US states have commonwealth designation. These are Virginia, Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. The commonwealth designation was important as these states originally defined their governance in direct opposition to the governance of the British Empire. The designation now lacks meaning and has merely been retained as a salute to the past history of rebellion that freed the US from British rule. google_ad_request_done.current_ad_block = 1; google_protectAndRun("ads_core.google_render_ad", google_handleError, google_render_ad); Some US territories are also organized as commonwealths. These territories, like Puerto Rico, are not entitled to the same rights and benefits as recognized states. For example Puerto Rico's designation as a commonwealth implies an ongoing relationship with the US, but does not imply statehood.


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A commonwealth is any political entity that was founded on law and united by a compact for the good of the people.# The people of a nation or state; the body politic.# A nation or state governed by the people; a republic.# Commonwealth## Used to refer to some U.S. states, namely, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.## Used to refer to a self-governing, autonomous political unit voluntarily associated with the United States, namely, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.# An international association such as The Commonwealth of Nations (formerly the British Commonwealth) or the Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet Republics).# The English state and government from the death of Charles I in 1649 to the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, including the Protectorate of 1653 to 1659.# Archaic. The public good; commonweal.


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Related questions

Is Arkansas a commonwealth state?

There are four US states that officially designate themselves as "commonwealths". Arkansas is not one of them.In practice, there's no real difference between a "commonwealth" state and one that just calls itself a state.


Is Virginia a state or commonwealth?

It is a US state named "The Commonwealth of Virginia".


Is Hawaii british commonwealth?

No. It is a US state, and as such, could not be a member of the Commonwealth.


What is Massachusetts?

A US State (or Commonwealth).


What is the difference between the State Legislature and the US Congress?

The difference between the state legislature and the congerss is that the state legislature is state legislature while Congress is national legislature.


What is the relationship between US and Puerto Rico?

Its called a US Commonwealth. Its like a state in many ways but remains a US Territory.


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The UK is a monarchy and the US is a republic.


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What is meant by commonwealths as opposed to states in the US?

The term 'commonwealth' really does not differ from state in the US, as it functions the same. Some states have referred to themselves as a commonwealth in their state constitutions because in revolutionary times, commonwealth was a term used to describe a state or nation where the people came together by mutual consent.


Is Kentucky the 15th state of US?

No. The Commonwealth of Kentucky was the fifteenth state to join the union.


Is Puerto Rico one state of US?

Puerto Rico is not the state of US ,it is a self-governing commonwealth associated with the United States.