[uh-thawr-i-tee, uh-thor-]

noun, plural au·thor·i·ties.

Origin of authority

1200–50; earlier auct(h)oritie < Latin auctōritās; replacing Middle English autorite < Old French < L. See author, -ity
Related formsan·ti·au·thor·i·ty, adjective

Synonyms for authority

Synonym study

1. Authority, control, influence denote a power or right to direct the actions or thoughts of others. Authority is a power or right, usually because of rank or office, to issue commands and to punish for violations: to have authority over subordinates. Control is either power or influence applied to the complete and successful direction or manipulation of persons or things: to be in control of a project. Influence is a personal and unofficial power derived from deference of others to one's character, ability, or station; it may be exerted unconsciously or may operate through persuasion: to have influence over one's friends. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for authority

Contemporary Examples of authority

Historical Examples of authority

  • No man ventured to interfere with this lawful exercise of his authority.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • From that moment on, no Jew dared to question the authority of Moses.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • So this part of my restraint was doubtless a stretch of the authority given him.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • It was unspeakably humiliating to be told that she had overstepped her authority.

  • But it was always my notion, that children should not dispute their parents' authority.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

British Dictionary definitions for authority


noun plural -ties

the power or right to control, judge, or prohibit the actions of others
(often plural) a person or group of people having this power, such as a government, police force, etc
a position that commands such a power or right (often in the phrase in authority)
such a power or right delegated, esp from one person to another; authorizationshe has his authority
the ability to influence or control othersa man of authority
an expert or an authoritative written work in a particular fieldhe is an authority on Ming china
evidence or testimonywe have it on his authority that she is dead
confidence resulting from great expertisethe violinist lacked authority in his cadenza
(capital when part of a name) a public board or corporation exercising governmental authority in administering some enterpriseIndependent Broadcasting Authority
  1. a judicial decision, statute, or rule of law that establishes a principle; precedent
  2. legal permission granted to a person to perform a specified act

Word Origin for authority

C14: from French autorité, from Latin auctōritas, from auctor author
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 authority

early 13c., autorite "book or quotation that settles an argument," from Old French auctorité "authority, prestige, right, permission, dignity, gravity; the Scriptures" (12c.; Modern French autorité), from Latin auctoritatem (nominative auctoritas) "invention, advice, opinion, influence, command," from auctor "master, leader, author" (see author (n.)).

Usually spelled with a -c- in English till 16c., when it was dropped in imitation of the French. Meaning "power to enforce obedience" is from late 14c.; meaning "people in authority" is from 1610s. Authorities "those in charge, those with police powers" is recorded from mid-19c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper