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in the Roman Forum, the seat of the imperial Senate.]]

A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or chamber of a legislature or parliament. There have been many such bodies in history, since senate means the assembly of the eldest and wiser members of the society and ruling class. Two of the first official senates were the Greek Senate (Γερουσία) and the Roman Senate.



The modern word senatorial is derived from the Latin word senātus (senate), which comes from senex, "old man" [1]. The members or legislators of a senate are called senators. The Latin word senator was adopted into English with no change in spelling. Its meaning is derived from a very ancient form of simple social organization in which decision-making powers are reserved for the eldest men. For the same reason, the word senate is correctly used when referring to any powerful authority characteristically composed by the eldest members of a community, as a deliberative body of a faculty in an institution of higher learning is often called a senate. The original senate was the Roman Senate, which lasted until 580. In the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine Senate continued until the Fourth Crusade.

Modern democratic states with bicameral parliamentary systems are sometimes equipped with a senate, often distinguished from an ordinary parallel lower house, known variously as the "House of Representatives", "House of Commons", "Chamber of Deputies", "National Assembly", "Legislative Assembly", or "House of Assembly", by electoral rules. This may include minimum age required for voters and candidates, proportional or majoritarian or plurality system, and an electoral basis or collegium. Typically, the senate is referred to as the upper house and has a smaller membership than the lower house. In some federal states senates also exist at the subnational level. In the United States all states other than Nebraska have a state senate. In Australia all states other than Queensland have an upper house known as a legislative council. Several Canadian provinces also once had legislative councils, but these have all been abolished, the last being Quebec's Legislative Council, in 1968.

Senate membership can be determined either through elections or appointments. For example, elections are held every three years for half the membership of the Australian Senate, the term of a senator being six years. In contrast, members of the Canadian Senate are appointed by the Governor General upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister of Canada, holding the office until they resign, are removed, or retire at the mandatory age of 75. In larger countries, the senate often serves a balancing effect by giving a larger share of power to regions or groups which would otherwise be overwhelmed under strictly popular apportionment.

Alternative meanings

The terms Senate and Senator, however, do not necessarily refer to a second chamber of a legislature:


  1. ^ American Heritage Dictionary: senate

National senates in the world

Defunct senates

Abolished in favor of
unicameral system

Legislature disbanded

New constitution adopted

* A Greek Senate was reestablished in 1927, and abolished again in 1935.
** A South African Senate was reconvened between 1994 and 1997, before being replaced by the National Council of Provinces.

See also

External links



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




< Middle English senat < Old French senat < Latin senātus (council of elderes; a senate) < senex (old).



  • synod (in some American dialects, [ˈsɪnət̚])




senate (plural senates)

  1. In some bicameral legislative systems, the upper house or chamber.
  2. A group of experienced, respected, wise individuals serving as decision makers or advisors in a political system or in institutional governance, as in a university, and traditionally of advanced age and male.
    • 1818, Percy Bysshe Shelley,"The Revolt of Islam", canto 11, stanza 13, lines 4338-9,
      Before the Tyrant's throne
      All night his aged Senate sate.

Related terms



  • senate in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
  • senate” in Unabridged, v1.0.1, Lexico Publishing Group, 2006.


Simple English

In a modern democracy, a senate is a group of people who are part of a legislature. A legislature passes or changes laws for their country, state, or other area. Members of a senate are called senators. Some legislatures have two groups of people (working in separate places) called houses. A senate can be called a House of Senators. The other house of such legislatures is called a House of Representatives or House of Commons. In such legislatures, both houses must pass the same bill to make it a law. Examples of modern democratic areas having legislatures with senates are the United States of America (U. S.), Canada, and many states in the U. S. The senators are elected by citizens in areas the senators represent.

The first ever senate was the Roman Senate.

Senate is also the name of the ruling body of some universities.

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