In many bicameral parliaments of a Westminster System, the House of Commons has historically been the name of the elected lower house. The Commons generally holds much more power than the upper house (the senate or House of Lords). The leader of the majority party in the House of Commons usually becomes the Prime Minister.
Historically, "the commons" were an estate in a traditional pre-Enlightenment European government which typically divided the governance of an area between "estates" of society. Other estates included the clergy, nobles, merchants and knights. The word "commons" has at times been confused with the word "commoner", but they are very different in this context. The House of Commons was created to serve as the political outlet for this "commons" class, while the elite estates were represented in the House of Lords. The House of Commons was thus elected by the people while members of the upper house were appointed on the basis of various forms of elite "merit", such as wealth, family, or prestige.
States with a House of Commons base their democratic systems upon this original British house of parliament (it is thus occasionally called "the mother of parliaments"). Many such places were part of the British Empire, and are now part of the Commonwealth of Nations. In distancing themselves from the rule of empire, they have often renamed that part of their government (or abolished it, e.g. in favour of a military dictatorship).
Most Westminster-system nations which originally used the term "House of Commons" have changed the name of their lower house to "the House of Representatives." There are only two existing Houses of Commons. These are the: British House of Commons (at the Palace of Westminster, London) and the Canadian House of Commons (on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa).
The House of Commons was also the lower house of the Parliament of Ireland, before its abolition under the 1801 Act of Union, and the short-lived Parliament of Southern Ireland in 1920, which was subsequently superseded by the Dáil of the Irish Free State. Similarly, the House of Commons was the lower house of the Parliament of Northern Ireland before its abolition in 1972.
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