[uh-thawr-i-tair-ee-uh n, uh-thor-]
See more synonyms for authoritarian on
  1. favoring complete obedience or subjection to authority as opposed to individual freedom: authoritarian principles; authoritarian attitudes.
  2. 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.
  3. exercising complete or almost complete control over the will of another or of others: an authoritarian parent.
  1. 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. 2018

Related Words for authoritarianism

totalitarianism, despotism, dictatorship, autocracy, monocracy

Examples from the Web for authoritarianism

Contemporary Examples of authoritarianism

Historical Examples of authoritarianism

  • He has to reverse the social current until it swings back to authoritarianism—with him riding the crest.

    The Sensitive Man

    Poul William Anderson

  • The tory and whig groups were known by their disagreement over the authoritarianism of the Crown.

British Dictionary definitions for authoritarianism


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

1883; see authoritarian + -ism. Early use mostly in communist jargon.



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