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Legislature vs. Parliament — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on November 6, 2023
Legislature is a governing body that makes laws; Parliament is a specific form of legislature, often bicameral, found in some countries.
Legislature vs. Parliament — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Legislature and Parliament


Key Differences

The term "legislature" is a generic term that refers to a governmental body with the power to make, amend, and repeal laws. Parliaments, on the other hand, are a specific type of legislature, traditionally bicameral, with specific roles and historical contexts, particularly within the Westminster system and other parliamentary democracies. Each operates within the framework of a country’s constitution, but their structures and functions may differ.
A legislature is a broad term that encompasses various types of law-making bodies across different systems of government, including parliaments, congresses, and assemblies. Parliaments are often associated with systems that follow the British parliamentary model, which includes two houses: an elected lower house and an appointed or hereditary upper house. Both legislature and parliament serve the essential function of representing the electorate and creating legislation.
The legislature is an essential component of democratic governance, whether it's within a parliamentary, presidential, or mixed system. A parliament functions within a legislature, but it is characterized by its own set of traditions, procedures, and practices that can vary significantly from those of non-parliamentary legislatures. For instance, in a parliamentary system, the executive branch is typically derived from the legislature, which is not always the case in other systems.
While the legislature is the broader term for a law-making body, the parliament specifically refers to a legislative body that is often part of a monarchy or a parliamentary republic. Legislatures are present in virtually all countries where there is some form of government, but not all countries have parliaments. Legislatures take on different forms, with different names and organizational structures, but parliaments have a more uniform identity, often symbolizing the historical development of representative governments in certain regions.
Legislatures can exist in different forms and under different names, such as the Congress in the United States or the National People's Congress in China. Parliament, by contrast, is a term used in countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, with specific institutional connotations and a traditional connection to the historical development of the English legal system. Regardless of the name, the fundamental role of both legislature and parliament is to enact, amend, and scrutinize legislation.

Comparison Chart


General term for a law-making body.
Specific type of legislature, often bicameral.


Can be unicameral or bicameral.
Typically bicameral in the Westminster system.

System Representation

Used in various government systems.
Associated with parliamentary systems.

Relationship with Executive

May be separate from the executive branch.
Executive is usually derived from the legislature.

Global Usage

Universal in nations with legislative bodies.
Specific to countries influenced by British governance.

Compare with Definitions


A group of representatives elected to make government policies.
The legislature debated the proposed tax increase for weeks.


A formal conference for the discussion of public affairs.
The Parliament will meet to tackle the recent healthcare crisis.


The governing body within a political system with law-making powers.
The legislature voted to update the criminal justice laws.


A sovereign legislative body in a parliamentary system.
The Parliament discussed the new trade agreement today.


A body of elected officials with authority to make laws.
The state legislature convened to discuss the new budget proposal.


An assembly of representatives who make and amend laws in certain countries.
The Prime Minister addressed the issues during the Parliament session.


An assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws.
The legislature was in session for several months to deliberate the reforms.


In modern politics and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: representing the electorate, making laws, and overseeing the government via hearings and inquiries.


The legislative branch of government.
The legislature passed a bill addressing climate change.


A representative body having supreme legislative powers within a state or multinational organization.


A legislature is an assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. They are often contrasted with the executive and judicial branches of parliamentary government in the separation of powers model.


Parliament The national legislature of the United Kingdom, made up of the House of Lords and the House of Commons.


The legislative body of a country or state
The Nevada state legislature passed a law to prohibit dumping of nuclear waste


A formal council summoned (especially by a monarch) to discuss important issues.


An officially elected or otherwise selected body of people vested with the responsibility and power to make laws for a political unit, such as a state or nation.


In many countries, the legislative branch of government, a deliberative assembly or set of assemblies whose elected or appointed members meet to debate the major political issues of the day, make, amend, and repeal laws, authorize the executive branch of government to spend money, and in some cases exercise judicial powers; a legislature.


A governmental body with the power to make, amend and repeal laws.


A particular assembly of the members of such a legislature, as convened for a specific purpose or period of time (commonly designated with an ordinal number – for example, first parliament or 12th parliament – or a descriptive adjective – for example, Long Parliament, Short Parliament and Rump Parliament).
Following the general election, Jane Doe took her oath of office as a member of the nation's fifth parliament.


(Canada) The legislative assembly of a province or territory, as opposed to the federal parliament.


A gathering of birds, especially rooks or owls.


(Canada) A legislative building.


(historical) Parliament cake, a type of gingerbread.


The body of persons in a state or kingdom invested with power to make and repeal laws; a legislative body.
Without the concurrent consent of all three parts of the legislature, no law is, or can be, made.


A parleying; a discussion; a conference.
But first they held their parliament.


Persons who make or amend or repeal laws


A formal conference on public affairs; a general council;
They made request that it might be lawful for them to summon a parliament of Gauls.


The assembly of the three estates of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, viz., the lords spiritual, lords temporal, and the representatives of the commons, sitting in the House of Lords and the House of Commons, constituting the legislature, when summoned by the royal authority to consult on the affairs of the nation, and to enact and repeal laws.


In France, before the Revolution of 1789, one of the several principal judicial courts.


A legislative assembly in certain countries (e.g., Great Britain)


A card game in which you play your sevens and other cards in sequence in the same suit as their sevens; you win if you are the first to use all your cards


The supreme legislative body in a country, especially a monarchy.
The bill was finally passed by both houses of Parliament.


The elected legislative body of a parliamentary democracy.
The Parliament is in charge of shaping the national economic policy.

Common Curiosities

Who can be part of a legislature?

Members of a legislature are usually elected officials, but can also be appointed in some systems.

Is every Parliament considered a legislature?

Yes, all Parliaments are a form of legislature.

What is the primary role of a legislature?

A legislature’s primary role is to make, amend, and repeal laws.

Can a legislature be unicameral?

Yes, a legislature can be unicameral, with only one legislative chamber.

Can a Parliament dismiss a government?

In parliamentary systems, a Parliament can often vote to dismiss a government.

Can anyone attend legislature sessions?

Many legislative sessions are open to the public, but there may be exceptions for certain debates or votes.

Are the terms 'Congress' and 'Parliament' interchangeable?

No, they refer to legislative bodies in different countries with distinct systems.

Does Parliament have to follow a certain structure?

Parliaments typically follow a bicameral structure, but it can vary by country.

What is the role of the Speaker in Parliament?

The Speaker presides over debates in Parliament, maintaining order and ensuring rules are followed.

How often does Parliament meet?

The frequency of Parliament meetings can vary, often determined by the country's constitution or laws.

Are all parliamentary laws created equal?

No, there can be a hierarchy of laws, with constitutional laws generally holding the highest authority.

What's the difference between an MP and a legislator?

An MP (Member of Parliament) is a legislator in a parliament, while a legislator can be a member of any legislative body.

How does a legislature influence the executive branch?

A legislature can enact laws that affect the executive's powers and may confirm executive appointments.

What powers do legislatures typically have?

Legislatures typically have powers to pass legislation, approve budgets, and oversee the executive.

How do legislatures impact the judiciary?

Legislatures can impact the judiciary by passing laws that define the legal framework within which the judiciary operates.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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