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1. a group of states or countries that join together

2. a group of states or countries under the control of one government

3. the Northern States of the US during the American Civil War

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun union comes from words in Latin and French meaning ‘unity’ or ‘oneness’. It was first used in English in the 15th century. The meaning of a group of people with a common aim or interest dates from the 17th century, while that referring to an organized group of workers or an organization that represents them, often used instead of the full form trade union, was first recorded in the early 1800s.


Europe Day, which is celebrated on 9th May, commemorates the 1950 Shuman Declaration which proposed the setting up of European Coal and Steel Community, the forerunner of the European Union. The EU is one of several types of state union: its meanings include a group of states controlled by one government, such as the former Soviet Union; the Northern States of the US during the Civil War; and the United States as a whole. The Union of Crowns, which took place in 1603, occurred when James VI of Scotland succeeded to the English throne following the death of Elizabeth I, bringing England, Ireland and Scotland under a single monarchy. The Union Jack or Union flag, which combined the flags of England and Scotland, was created a few years later in 1606.


“Join the union, girls, and together say Equal Pay for Equal Work.”
(Susan B Anthony)

“Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.”
(Frank Lloyd Wright)

Related words

bloc, commonwealth, superstate

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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