While the word régime originates as a synonym for any form of government, modern usage often gives the term a negative connotation, implying an authoritarian government or dictatorship. Webster's definition states that the word régime refers simply to a form of government, while Oxford English Dictionary defines regime as "a government, especially an authoritarian one".
Contemporary academic usage of the term "regime" is broader than popular and journalistic usage, meaning "an intermediate stratum between the government (which makes day-to-day decisions and is easy to alter) and the state (which is a complex bureaucracy tasked with a range of coercive functions)." In global studies and international relations the concept of regime is also used to name international regulatory agencies (see International regime), which lie outside of the control of national governments. Some authors thus distinguish analytically between institutions and regimes while recognizing that they are bound up with each other:
In other words, regimes can be defined as sets of protocols and norms embedded either in institutions or institutionalized practices – formal such as states or informal such as the "liberal trade regime" – that are publicly enacted and relatively enduring.