the powers that be, those in supreme command; the authorities: The decision is in the hands of the powers that be.

Origin of power

1250–1300; Middle English pouer(e), poer(e) < Anglo-French poueir, poer, noun use of infinitive: to be able < Vulgar Latin *potēre (replacing Latin posse to be able, have power). See potent1
Related formscoun·ter·pow·er, nounde-pow·er, verb (used with object)re·pow·er, verb

Synonyms for power

Synonym study

3. See strength.

Antonyms for power Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for counter-power

Historical Examples of counter-power

British Dictionary definitions for counter-power



ability or capacity to do something
(often plural) a specific ability, capacity, or faculty
political, financial, social, etc, force or influence
control or dominion or a position of control, dominion, or authority
a state or other political entity with political, industrial, or military strength
a person who exercises control, influence, or authorityhe's a power in the state
a prerogative, privilege, or liberty
  1. legal authority to act, esp in a specified capacity, for another
  2. the document conferring such authority
  1. a military force
  2. military potential
  1. the value of a number or quantity raised to some exponent
  2. another name for exponent (def. 4)
statistics the probability of rejecting the null hypothesis in a test when it is false. The power of a test of a given null depends on the particular alternative hypothesis against which it is tested
physics engineering a measure of the rate of doing work expressed as the work done per unit time. It is measured in watts, horsepower, etcSymbol: P
  1. the rate at which electrical energy is fed into or taken from a device or system. It is expressed, in a direct-current circuit, as the product of current and voltage and, in an alternating-current circuit, as the product of the effective values of the current and voltage and the cosine of the phase angle between them. It is measured in watts
  2. (as modifier)a power amplifier
the ability to perform work
  1. mechanical energy as opposed to manual labour
  2. (as modifier)a power mower
a particular form of energynuclear power
  1. a measure of the ability of a lens or optical system to magnify an object, equal to the reciprocal of the focal length. It is measured in dioptres
  2. another word for magnification
informal a large amount or quantitya power of good
(plural) the sixth of the nine orders into which the angels are traditionally divided in medieval angelology
in one's power (often foll by an infinitive) able or allowed (to)
in someone's power under the control or sway of someone
the powers that be the established authority or administration

verb (tr)

to give or provide power to
to fit (a machine) with a motor or engine
(intr) slang to travel with great speed or force

Word Origin for power

C13: from Anglo-Norman poer, from Vulgar Latin potēre (unattested), from Latin posse to be able
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 counter-power



c.1300, "ability; ability to act or do; strength, vigor, might," especially in battle; "efficacy; control, mastery, lordship, dominion; legal power or authority; authorization; military force, an army," from Anglo-French pouair, Old French povoir, noun use of the infinitive, "to be able," earlier podir (9c.), from Vulgar Latin *potere, from Latin potis "powerful" (see potent).

Whatever some hypocritical ministers of government may say about it, power is the greatest of all pleasures. It seems to me that only love can beat it, and love is a happy illness that can't be picked up as easily as a Ministry. [Stendhal "de l'Amour," 1822]

Meaning "one who has power" is late 14c. Meaning "specific ability or capacity" is from early 15c. Meaning "a state or nation with regard to international authority or influence" [OED] is from 1726. Used for "a large number of" from 1660s. Meaning "energy available for work is from 1727. Sense of "electrical supply" is from 1896.

Phrase the powers that be is from Rom. xiii:1. As a statement wishing good luck, more power to (someone) is recorded from 1842. A power play in ice hockey so called by 1940. Power failure is from 1911; power steering from 1921.



"to supply with power," 1898, from power (n.). Earlier it meant "make powerful" (1530s). Related: Powered; powering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for counter-power




The capacity to perform or act effectively.
Strength or force that is exerted or that is capable of being exerted.
The amount of work done per unit time.
A measure of the magnification of an optical instrument, such as a microscope or telescope.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for counter-power



The source of energy used to operate a machine or other system.
The rate at which work is done, or energy expended, per unit time. Power is usually measured in watts (especially for electrical power) or horsepower (especially for mechanical power). For a path conducting electrical current, such as a component in an electric circuit, P = VI, where P is the power dissipated along the path, V is the voltage across the path, and I is the current through the path. Compare energy work.
Mathematics The number of times a number or expression is multiplied by itself, as shown by an exponent. Thus ten to the sixth power, or 106, equals one million.
A number that represents the magnification of an optical instrument, such as a microscope or telescope. A 500-power microscope can magnify an image to 500 times its original size.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Culture definitions for counter-power


In physics, the amount of energy put out or produced in a given amount of time. Power is often measured in watts or kilowatts.

In mathematics, a power is a number multiplied by itself the number of times signified by an exponent placed to the right and above it. Thus, 32, which means 3 × 3, is a power — the second power of three, or three squared, or nine. The expression 106, or ten to the sixth power, means 10 × 10 × 10 × 10 × 10 × 10, or one million.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with counter-power


In addition to the idioms beginning with power

  • power behind the throne
  • powers that be, the

also see:

  • corridors of power
  • more power to someone
  • staying power
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.