- A soviet originally was a workers' local council in Czarist Russia. Russian Marxists made them a medium for organizing against the state, and between the February and October Revolutions, Bolsheviks used the slogan "All power to the soviets" in opposing the government led by Kerensky.
- Following the October Revolution, all factories eventually had soviets organized according to the Bolshevik understanding of Marxist-Leninist theory, supplanting the earlier meaning that allowed for independent soviets. (Dissident existing soviets were won over or suppressed; Bolshevik soviets were organized in factories that lacked soviets.) The view was widely promoted and expressed that Bolshevik power rested on the collective will of these soviets, representing the fulfillment of the slogan.
- Based on and in support of that view of the state, the term naturally extended, or consciously was extended, to mean in effect any body formed by a group of soviets to delegate, up a hierarchy of soviets, the authority to express and effect their will. In this sense, post-Kerensky government bodies at local and republic levels (but in the Russian federated republic, local, republic, and federated republic levels) were described as soviet, and at the top of the hierarchy, the Supreme Soviet was the nominal core of the Union government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, officially formed in December 1922.
- Hence Soviet became also an adjective meaning of or pertaining to the Soviet Union or its constituent soviet republics.
- Hence another noun, Soviet, means citizen of the Soviet Union.
- "The Soviet", in some Western sources from 1922 into the last half of that century, is also a term for the Soviet government.