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checks and balances

plural noun
limits imposed on all branches of a government by vesting in each branch the right to amend or void those acts of another that fall within its purview.
Origin of checks and balances
1780-90 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Contemporary Examples
British Dictionary definitions for checks-and-balances

checks and balances

plural noun
(government, mainly US) competition and mutual restraint among the various branches of government
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Contemporary definitions for checks-and-balances

a system of constitutional government which guards against absolute power by providing for separate executive, judicial, and legislative bodies who share powers and thereby check and balance one another

Usage Note

politics's 21st Century Lexicon
Copyright © 2003-2014, LLC
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checks-and-balances in Culture

checks and balances definition

A fundamental principle of American government, guaranteed by the Constitution, whereby each branch of the government (executive, judicial, and legislative) has some measure of influence over the other branches and may choose to block procedures of the other branches. Checks and balances prevent any one branch from accumulating too much power and encourage cooperation between branches as well as comprehensive debate on controversial policy issues. For example, to enact a federal law, the Senate and the House of Representatives must each vote to pass the law. In this sense, each house of Congress can check the other. Furthermore, even if the two houses do agree, the president must sign the law. If he chooses to veto the law, it can still be enacted if two-thirds of the members of both houses vote to override the veto. Under this arrangement, both Congress and the president can check each other. (See also appropriation, impeachment, judicial review, and separation of powers; also see chart, next page.)

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Idioms and Phrases with checks-and-balances

checks and balances

System whereby each branch of an organization can limit the powers of the other branches, as in The union has used a system of checks and balances to prevent any large local from dominating its policies. This system was enacted through the Constitution of the United States in order to prevent any of its three branches from dominating the Federal government. The term is occasionally transferred to other mechanisms for balancing power.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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