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A senate is a deliberative body, often the upper house or chamber of a legislature. The word senate is derived from the Latin word senex (old man), via the Latin word senatus (senate). The members (or legislators) of a senate are called senators. The Latin word senator has been adopted by English with no change in spelling. Its meaning comes from a very ancient form of even simple social organization in which decision-making powers are reserved for the eldest men. For the same reason, the word senate is correctly used when referring to any powerful authority characteristically composed by the eldest members of a community, as a deliberative body of a faculty in an institution of higher learning is often called a senate. The original senate was the Roman Senate.

Modern democratic states with bicameral parliamentary systems are sometimes equipped with a senate, often distinguished by an ordinary parallel lower house (known variously as the 'House of Representatives', 'Chamber of Deputies', 'National Assembly' or House of Assembly), by electoral rules (minimum age required for voters and candidates, proportional or majoritarian/plurality system, electoral basis = collegium). Typically, the senate is referred to as the upper house and has a smaller membership than the lower house.

An example of this is the United States Senate where the number of seats is fixed at two per state, regardless of size.

In a federal system, the senate often serves a balancing effect by giving a larger share of power to regions and groups which would otherwise be overwhelmed in a purely representative system. In the legislatures of U.S. states, Senates were also used for this purpose until the 1963 case of Baker v. Carr, in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that state legislatures must apportion seats in both houses according to population. However, there are still typically fewer members of a state Senate than there are members of the lower house.

In the United States, each of its member states has a Senate and a lower chamber, known variously as the House of Representatives, House of Delegates, General Assembly or Assembly, except for the state of Nebraska, where the Senate is the only body of a unicameral legislature.

Some senates, notably in Canada and the Commonwealth Caribbean, are appointed rather than elected. The Jamaican Senate, for example, has 21 members, thirteen appointed by the prime minister and eight by the leader of the opposition. This serves as a block on constitutional change, which requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber.

A senate can also be the name of an executive branch of government. Until 1919, the Senate of Finland was the executive branch and supreme court. In the German city Länder or states, of Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg, the executive branch of government is called the Senate, with Senators holding ministerial portfolios.

The title of senator can also be used for certain members of other legislative bodies, for example, some elected members of the States of Jersey, and nominated members of Dominica's House of Assembly and St Kitts and Nevis's National Assembly, are known as 'Senators'.

In Scotland, judges of the High Court of Justiciary are called Senators of the College of Justice.

Senates around the world

Defunct senates

1. Senate abolished, unicameral system adopted.
2. Legislature disbanded.
3. New Constitution adopted.
4. Replaced by National Council of Provinces.

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