term «federalism» derives from the Latin «foedus»,
meaning «alliance» or «covenant». Generally the term refers
to a structural principle for systems of government, but it can be used in
other contexts as well. Federalism takes many forms (e.g. institutional,
symmetrical/asymmetrical, financial, participatory federalism), all of which give shape and meaning to the term.
See Ines Härtel, Alte und neue Föderalismuswelten, in: Handbuch Föderalismus, Band I: Grundlagen des Föderalismus und der deutsche Bundesstaat, Heidelberg 2012, Prologue, MN 5: «Like many other major terms used in political philosophy and constitutional law, federalism carries a certain semantic haziness and therefore requires definition and interpretation. Fundamentally, federalism is a political structure for freedom based on territorial division. It represents a structural concept that concerns itself with society but is primarily about government. Freedom will also always require positioning, a framework, contact points and reference points - a basic principle for real development which is catered to by federalism. At the same time, this concept of structured freedom is characterised by variability: it can relate to many different commercial or societal entities and to national or governmental conditions; it can be institutionally conservative while dynamic in political practice and progressive in problem-solving; it can bring together the marks of different eras in the present but remain open to the future of new federal developments (such as the European Union).»