Many countries have an assembly named a senate, composed of senators who may be elected, appointed, have inherited the title, or gained membership by other methods, depending on the country. Modern senates typically serve to provide a chamber of "sober second thought" to consider legislation passed by a lower house, whose members are usually elected. Most senates have asymmetrical duties and powers compared with their respective lower house meaning they have special duties, for example to fill important political positions or to pass special laws. Conversely many senates have limited powers in changing or stopping bills under consideration and efforts to stall or veto a bill may be bypassed by the lower house or another branch of government.
The modern word Senate is derived from the Latin word sen?tus (senate), which comes from senex, 'old man'. The members or legislators of a senate are called senators. The Latin word senator was adopted into English with no change in spelling. Its meaning is derived from a very ancient form of social organization, in which advisory or 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. This form adaptation was used to show the power of those in body and for the decision-making process to be thorough, which could take a long period of time. The original senate was the Roman Senate, which lasted until at least AD 603, although various efforts to revive it were made in Medieval Rome. In the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine Senate continued until the Fourth Crusade, circa 1202-1204.
Senate membership can be determined either through elections or appointments. For example, elections are held every three years for half the membership of the Senate of the Philippines, the term of a senator being six years. In contrast, members of the Canadian Senate are appointed by the Governor General upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister of Canada, holding the office until they resign, are removed, or retire at the mandatory age of 75.
The terms senate and senator, however, do not necessarily refer to a second chamber of a legislature:
In a number of cities which were former members of the Hanse (a medieval confederacy of port cities mainly at the shores of the Baltic Sea and the North Sea), such as Greifswald, Lübeck, Rostock, Stralsund, or Wismar, the city government is also called a Senate. However, in Bavaria, the Senate was a second legislative chamber until its abolition in 1999.
In German jurisprudence:
The term Senat (senate) in higher courts of appeal refers to the "bench" in its broader metonymy meaning, describing members of the judiciary collectively (usually five judges), often occupied with a particular subject-matter jurisdiction. However, the judges are not called "senators". The German term Strafsenat (literally "Penal Senate") in a German court translates to Bench of penal-law jurisdiction and Zivilsenat (literally "Civil Senate") to Bench of private-law jurisdiction. The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany consists of two senates of eight judges each. In its case the division is mostly of an organizational nature, as a matter of dividing the work load; both senates handle the same kind of constitutional cases. At some points in the past, one senate was considered more conservative and the other more liberal, but that is not the case as of 2011.
In some, mostly federal countries with a unicameral legislature, some of the legislators are elected differently from the others and are called senators. In federal countries, such senators represent the territories, while the other members represent the people at large (this device is used to allow a federal representation without having to establish a bicameral legislature); this is the case with St. Kitts and Nevis, Comoros and Micronesia. In other, non-federal countries, the use of the term senator marks some other difference between such members and the rest of the legislators (such as the method of selection); this is the case with the States of Jersey, Dominica's House of Assembly and the Saint VincentHouse of Assembly.
^A Greek Senate was reestablished in 1927, and abolished again in 1935.
^The Kenyan Senate and House of Representatives were combined into a single National Assembly, under the 2010 Constitution, the Senate is the upper house, with the National Assembly becoming the lower house.
^The Control Yuan existed as a parliamentary body in the 1947 Chinese constitution which were elected by provincial legislators for a duration of 6 years. After the Chinese Civil War, the government was transferred to Taiwan. In the constitutional reforms of the 1990s, the Control Yuan is now a purely auditory body, and its 29 members are nominated by the president, and confirmed by the Legislative Yuan for a duration of 6 years. Since 2005, the Legislative Yuan is now the nation's sole parliamentary body.
^ abcThe Philippine Senate was abolished and restored twice. A new constitution in 1935 abolished the Senate but an amendment in 1941 restored it in 1945. In 1972, the legislature was closed, and a passage of a new constitution in 1978 confirmed the abolition of the Senate; an approval of a new constitution in 1987 restored it.