politics vocabulary

Useful Vocabulary

Things you might see around election time
ballot paper(s)
ballot paper
leaflet(s) / pamphlet(s) pamphlets
party political broadcast broadcast
politician(s) thatcher
poll card(s) poll
poster(s) poster
postal vote(s) envelope
vote(s) vote
voting booth(s) booth


Main Political Parties in the UK - from left to right. Their Colours and Logos

labour rose libdem bird conservative tree
Labour - Red - Rose
Liberal Democrats - Gold - Bird
Conservatives - Blue - Tree

Words you might see or hear during an election

block vote A way of voting in which your vote represents other members of your organization, especially at trade union meetings.
by-election A special election, held between regular elections, when an area votes. A by-election can be 'called' if an existing M.P. dies or retires.
campaign (n) In an election a campaign is a political campaign is an organized effort which seeks to win the vote of the electorate. Often called a 'political campaign' or an 'election campaign'.
campaign (v) The things a candidate does to be elected. (KIssing babies, shaking hands, giving speeches to the WI etc.)
candidate (n) The person who is running in an election.
coalition (n) If there's no outright winner in an election a government can be formed in which several parties cooperate.
constituent (n) A citizen who is represented in a government by officials for whom he or she votes.
constituency (n) Each of the electoral areas or divisions in the UK which elect one or more members to parliament.
debate (n) A formal discussion of the merits of something.
debate (v) To argue for and against something.
deposit (n) The sum of money that a candidate must pay in return for the right to stand in British parliamentary elections.
dissolution (n) The termination of the current parliament, which has to take place before a general election.
dissolved (v) Once the dissolution of parliament has been announced, we say it has been dissolved.
elect (v) The act of voting to select the winner of a political office.
election (n) The formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office.
electorate (n) The people who are eligible to vote in an election.
general election An election held for a nation's primary legislative body.
gerrymander To redraw electoral district boundaries for political advantage.
government The political body with the power to make and/or enforce laws for a country,
House of Commons The lower house of the British parliament.
House of Lords The upper house of the British parliament.
independent A candidate who is not controlled by a political party.
leader The person who runs a political party. (Margaret Thatcher was the leader of the Conservatives).
local election County, unitary authority, borough, district, city, town or parish elections.
MP Abbreviation of Member of Parliament.
Member of Parliament The person who represents their constituency in the House of Commons.
opposition The major political party opposed to the party in office and prepared to replace it if elected.
party An organization formed to gain political power.
policy A deliberate act of government that in some way alters or influences the society or economy outside the government.
political Related to politics.
politician A person active in politics.
politics The process by which governments make decisions.
PM Abbreviation of Prime Minister.
prime minister The person who holds the position of head of the government.
proxy vote The delegation of someone to vote on someone else's behalf.
rhetoric The art of using language as a means to persuade someone to your way of thinking.
run To campaign to stand for a political position.
spin To present the facts in such a way as to sway public opinion.
spin doctor  
veto A vote that blocks a decision.

Build Up - Different forms of government / political power


A system of government in which supreme political power to direct all the activities of the state is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control (except perhaps for the implicit threat of coup d'etat or mass insurrection).


A privileged social class whose members possess disproportionately large shares of a society's wealth, social prestige, educational attainment and political influence, with these advantages having been acquired principally through gift or inheritance from a long line of similarly privileged and cultivated ancestors. The term refers also to a form of government in which the state is effectively controlled by the members of such a class. The term tends to have a somewhat unsavory or derogatory connotation today in the light of democratic theories, but in classical political philosophy it meant rule by “the best people” of the society, who were expected to feel a paternalistic concern for the humbler members of the society that would keep them from ruling in a purely self-seeking fashion.


Governmental rule by the worst, the least able, the most unsuitable, despicable and incompetent people. (Michael Leunig - Word of the Day)


Severe government interference in economics. Centralized planning by the government, ONE PARTY rule, and stresses that there should be only one class of people.


A system of government in which effective political power is vested in the people. In older usage (for example, in the writings of the classical Greek and Roman philosophers or in the Federalist Papers), the term was reserved exclusively for governmental systems in which the populace exercised this power directly through general assemblies or referenda to decide the most important questions of law or policy. In more contemporary usage, the term has been broadened to include also what the American Founding Fathers called a republic -- a governmental system in which the power of the people is normally exercised only indirectly, through freely elected representatives who are supposed to make government decisions according to the popular will, or at least according to the supposed values and interests of the population.


Government by a single person (or group) whose discretion in using the powers and resources of the state is unrestrained by any fixed legal or constitutional rules and who is (are) in no effective way held responsible to the general population or their elected representatives.

Generic term used to describe any government controlled by a single individual and giving the people little or no individual freedom. Typically a person who rules by threat of force. People who are loyal to a dictatorship swear allegiance to the person first and the country second. Fascism, Theocracies, Monarchies and Communism can all be dictatorships. A Republic cannot be a dictatorship.


A class of political ideologies (and historical political regimes) that takes its name from the movement led by Benito Mussolini that took power in Italy in 1922. Mussolini's ideas and practices directly and indirectly influenced political movements in Germany (especially the Nazi Party), Spain (Franco's Falange Party), France, Argentina, and many other European and non-European countries right up to the present day.


The theory of government based on the ideals of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the book The Communist Manifesto written in the 1800's. Marxism advocates the "workers" (Proletariats and petite-bourgeoisie) rise up and overthrow businesses and government and take control themselves. Marxism advocates a classless society in which everything is shared and owned by all. In its true form it follows the mandates of a Direct Democracy in which the mob or general population rules and allocates resources based upon the will of the majority with equal consideration given to all without exclusions or privileges to any.


A government that has a single person who is generally considered the ruler by the title and birthright. Titles include: Czar, King, Queen, Emperor, Caesar, etc... Power is absolute and is either taken through conquest or passed down to family members without regard for ability or appropriateness. Society is formed around feudal groups or tribes in which the ruling family delegates power and authority based upon the desires of a single individual. Power struggles are common. A monarchy is based upon a class system where those of a certain birthright are perceived to be of superior intellect and strength to those not of the same family line. The resources and wealth of a country is generally preserved solely for the hedonistic and self-fulfilling desires of the reigning monarch with little regard for the general population or its welfare. The inhabitants of a country under a monarch are alive to serve the monarch. In contrast the inhabitants of a republic are served by the their leaders.


Any system of government in which virtually all political power is held by a very small number of wealthy but otherwise unmeritorious people who shape public policy primarily to benefit themselves financially through direct subsidies to their agricultural estates or business firms, lucrative government contracts, and protectionist measures aimed at damaging their economic competitors — while displaying little or no concern for the broader interests of the rest of the citizenry. “Oligarchy” is also used as a collective term to denote all the individual members of the small corrupt ruling group in such a system. The term always has a negative or derogatory connotation in both contemporary and classical usage, in contrast to aristocracy (which sometimes has a derogatory connotation in modern usage, but never in classical).


Originally, any form of government not headed by an hereditary monarch. In modern American usage, the term usually refers more specifically to a form of government (a.k.a. “representative democracy”) in which ultimate political power is theoretically vested in the people but in which popular control is exercised only intermittently and indirectly through the popular election of government officials and/or delegates to a legislative assembly rather than directly through frequent mass assemblies or legislation by referendum.


Limited government interference in business activity, (as opposed to communism) but more than in capitalism. Certain areas of an individual's life are controlled and representation tends to be parliamentary in nature. In other words, people vote for a particular party and the party elects the leaders of the country. The notable difference here is that there is more than one party.


A government which claims to be immediately directed by God, and divinely blessed. The country tends to be intolerant either passively or overtly to faiths other than that recognized by the state. The country identifies itself and its laws within religion and religious doctrine. There is no legal separation between church and state, and citizens of other faiths are often excluded or hampered from participation or expelled. Because a theocracy is exclusionary, it can never be a democracy which requires inclusion without exception of all equally. It cannot be a republic because a republic requires the separation of church and state and equal rights to all.

Naturally Speaking

  • I'd like to register to vote.
  • I'm on the electoral registry.
  • I haven't had my poll card, yet.
  • Where is the polling station?
  • Have you voted, yet?
  • Are you going to vote?
  • Which party are you voting for?*
  • Who are you going to vote for?*
  • Who got the most votes?
*Be careful about asking this. For many people in the UK, voting is a personal matter.
Watch and listen to this walk-through on how to vote in the UK.


Mr and Mrs Smith are discussing the elections.
Election  - Conversation
Mrs Smith: Are you coming to vote? The polling station will be closing in an hour.
Mr Smith : It's raining!
Mrs Smith: So what?
Mr Smith: I can't be bothered. It doesn't matter who I vote for, we always end up worse off. They're all as bad as each other.
Mrs Smith: Well don't complain to me if you don't like the policies of whoever wins.
Mr Smith: I don't think anyone will win. They're predicting a hung parliament.
Mrs Smith: Well if no one bothers to vote, I guess they'll be right. I'll be back in ten.

Games and Tests for this Vocabulary Unit

All these games and tests open in a new window.

Crossword (coming soon)
Dictation and Spelling Test (coming soon)