近代西方的”democracy”和”republic”兩個詞最初本身就是難以區別的概念，因此十九世紀中葉為止，中文多用「民主」、日文多用「共和」來表述之。當時兩國之間並無語言交流，所以，各行其是，以不同的漢語詞對譯這兩個概念。至十九世紀後半葉，漢譯西書及英華字典等均為日本所引進，「民主」一詞也隨《萬國公法》（1864）進入日語，且在對譯”republic”上與日語的「共和」形成類義關係。十九世紀末期來日的中國留學生又將日語”republic”＝「共和」帶回國，一時間中日兩國都用「民主」「共和」來表示同一外來概念”republic”。但這種類義狀態沒持續多久，隨著”republic”＝「共和」的固定，多出來的「民主」開始承擔”democracy”之意。在日本將”democracy”譯作「民主主義」或片假名的「デモクラシー」，試圖與「共和」區別開來。二十世紀初「民主主義」一詞亦傳入中國，使得”democracy”和”republic”最終分別由「民主」與「共和」來對譯，本來是類義關係的兩個漢語譯詞經過半個世紀的磨合，終於實現了各自的意義分擔。 The distinction between ”democracy” and ”republic” has always been somewhat ambiguous, a fact which is reflected in the different translations for both terms in China and Japan in the mid-19 century. While the Chinese ”minzu” originally came into usage after the introduction of International Law theories, its meaning increasingly resembled the Japanese term for Republic, namely ”gonghe”. Yet towards the end of the Qing dynasty, the large influx of Chinese students from Japan also introduced the concept of ”gonghe” with its connotation of republic. For a short period of time both terms were used to denote the same concept, until finally ”gonghe” became the main terminus. ”minzu” on the other hand took on the meaning of democracy, as the Japanese termini of ”minzuzhuyi” and ”demokerashii” simultaneously were introduced. Thus after more than half a century the translation and usage of both democracy and republic finally settled into their respective modern wording in the context of East Asian modernity.