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Main Entry:  separation of powers
Part of Speech:  n
Definition:  the doctrine that the individual branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial) have separate and unique powers the others cannot impinge upon
Etymology:  developed by French philosopher Baron de Montesquieu
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

separation of powers definition


A fundamental principle of the United States government, whereby powers and responsibilities are divided among the legislative branch, executive branch, and judicial branch. The officials of each branch are selected by different procedures and serve different terms of office; each branch may choose to block action of the other branches through the system of checks and balances. The framers of the Constitution designed this system to ensure that no one branch would accumulate too much power and that issues of public policy and welfare would be given comprehensive consideration before any action was taken.

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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Example sentences
Despite this separation of powers, occasional arguments arose between the
  master of the ship and the master of the galley.
He also spelled out the separation of powers between the executive, legislative
  and judicial branches.
It violates the principle of the separation of powers.
Its leaders say it wants to be part of a modern democracy with a separation of
  powers, independent courts and a free press.
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