Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: territory; dependency; commonwealth.

territory; dependency; commonwealth. The distinctions in American English are as follows: “Territory” = a part of the United States not included within any state but organized with a separate legislature (Webster’s 11th). Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands are territories of the United States; Alaska and Hawaii were formerly territories. “Dependency” = a land or territory governed, but not formally annexed, by a geographically distinct country. The Philippines was once a dependency of the United States. “Commonwealth” = a political unit having local autonomy but voluntarily joined with the United States. A few states are called commonwealths, but mostly one thinks of Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands as commonwealths. Puerto Rico is sometimes referred to as a dependency, but its proper designation is commonwealth. In British English, “commonwealth” = a loose association of countries that recognize one sovereign {the British Commonwealth”}. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “As facilitating revision, a knowledge of the thing to be achieved — a clear idea of what constitutes a beauty, and what a blemish — cannot fail to be of service.” Herbert Spencer, Philosophy of Style 16 ([1871]; repr. 1959).
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