When you hear the word “president,” what comes to mind? Probably the president of the United States, right?
Even though there are many presidents in the world, the word has become closely linked to America. But have you ever wondered why the person in office is called “president” in the first place?
Enter the president
At the end of the American Revolutionary War, it fell to a small group, the Founding Fathers, to decide how this new country should be governed.
The result was a constitutional democracy built on the principle of dividing power among the executive, legislative and judicial branches. At the head of this new governmental system would be a new kind of office: the “president.” This person would lead the government, take responsibility for day-to-day decision-making and be its outward representative.
Naming this new office had proven particularly tricky. Many of the words that seemed obvious, like “governor” and “prime minister,” were rejected because they were associated with the British. Eventually, they settled on the more neutral word “president,” from the Latin “praesidere,” meaning to “preside over.” This term still carried a sense of authority, but was free from any British connotations.