[uh-thawr-i-tair-ee-uh n, uh-thor-]


favoring complete obedience or subjection to authority as opposed to individual freedom: authoritarian principles; authoritarian attitudes.
of or relating to a governmental or political system, principle, or practice in which individual freedom is held as completely subordinate to the power or authority of the state, centered either in one person or a small group that is not constitutionally accountable to the people.
exercising complete or almost complete control over the will of another or of others: an authoritarian parent.


a person who favors or acts according to authoritarian principles.

Origin of authoritarian

First recorded in 1875–80; authorit(y) + -arian
Related formsau·thor·i·tar·i·an·ism, nounan·ti·au·thor·i·tar·i·an, adjectivean·ti·au·thor·i·tar·i·an·ism, nounnon·au·thor·i·tar·i·an, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for authoritarian

Contemporary Examples of authoritarian

Historical Examples of authoritarian

  • At this yielding he, being by nature an authoritarian, seemed not a little pleased.

    The God of Love

    Justin Huntly McCarthy

  • He has the harsh, authoritarian manner of the provincial of importance.

    Three Plays

    Luigi Pirandello

  • These are the authoritarian or State Socialist and the individualist methods.


    Errico Malatesta

  • A third point to be noted is the authoritarian character of the regime of the future.

  • The authoritarian nightmare of the 1960s has come home for them.

    Little Brother

    Cory Doctorow

British Dictionary definitions for authoritarian



favouring, denoting, or characterized by strict obedience to authority
favouring, denoting, or relating to government by a small elite with wide powers
despotic; dictatorial; domineering


a person who favours or practises authoritarian policies
Derived Formsauthoritarianism, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for authoritarian

1862, "favoring imposed order over freedom," from authority + -an. Cf. authoritative, which originally had this meaning to itself. Noun in the sense of one advocating or practicing such governance is from 1859.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper