[em-pahyuhr; for 8–10 also om-peer]
See more synonyms for empire on Thesaurus.com
  1. a group of nations or peoples ruled over by an emperor, empress, or other powerful sovereign or government: usually a territory of greater extent than a kingdom, as the former British Empire, French Empire, Russian Empire, Byzantine Empire, or Roman Empire.
  2. a government under an emperor or empress.
  3. (often initial capital letter) the historical period during which a nation is under such a government: a history of the second French empire.
  4. supreme power in governing; imperial power; sovereignty: Austria's failure of empire in central Europe.
  5. supreme control; absolute sway: passion's empire over the mind.
  6. a powerful and important enterprise or holding of large scope that is controlled by a single person, family, or group of associates: The family's shipping empire was founded 50 years ago.
  7. (initial capital letter) a variety of apple somewhat resembling the McIntosh.
  1. (initial capital letter) characteristic of or developed during the first French Empire, 1804–15.
  2. (usually initial capital letter) (of women's attire and coiffures) of the style that prevailed during the first French Empire, in clothing being characterized especially by décolletage and a high waistline, coming just below the bust, from which the skirt hangs straight and loose.
  3. (often initial capital letter) noting or pertaining to the style of architecture, furnishings, and decoration prevailing in France and imitated to a greater or lesser extent in various other countries, c1800–30: characterized by the use of delicate but elaborate ornamentation imitated from Greek and Roman examples or containing classical allusions, as animal forms for the legs of furniture, bas-reliefs of classical figures, motifs of wreaths, torches, caryatids, lyres, and urns and by the occasional use of military and Egyptian motifs and, under the Napoleonic Empire itself, of symbols alluding to Napoleon I, as bees or the letter N.

Origin of empire

1250–1300; Middle English < Anglo-French, Old French < Latin imperium; see empery
Related formsin·ter·em·pire, adjectivepre-Em·pire, adjectivepro·em·pire, adjective
Can be confusedempire umpire

Synonyms for empire

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for empire

Contemporary Examples of empire

Historical Examples of empire

  • I have sought thy daughter in marriage for Xerxes, prince of the empire.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • What, then, must be the population of the British empire if the increase in one city was at that rate?

  • Still, the empire seems to take its course westward just the same.

  • He excludes "the insolence of office," and "the cutpurse of the empire and the rule."

  • And again she laughed, she who was so certain of her empire over this man's heart and body.

    Fair Margaret

    H. Rider Haggard

British Dictionary definitions for empire


  1. an aggregate of peoples and territories, often of great extent, under the rule of a single person, oligarchy, or sovereign state
  2. any monarchy that for reasons of history, prestige, etc, has an emperor rather than a king as head of state
  3. the period during which a particular empire exists
  4. supreme power; sovereignty
  5. a large industrial organization with many ramifications, esp a multinational corporation
Related formsRelated adjective: imperial

Word Origin for empire

C13: from Old French, from Latin imperium rule, from imperāre to command, from parāre to prepare


noun the Empire
  1. See British Empire
  2. French history
    1. the period of imperial rule in France from 1804 to 1815 under Napoleon Bonaparte
    2. Also called: Second Empirethe period from 1852 to 1870 when Napoleon III ruled as emperor
  1. denoting, characteristic of, or relating to the British Empire
  2. denoting, characteristic of, or relating to either French Empire, esp the first: in particular, denoting the neoclassical style of architecture and furniture and the high-waisted style of women's dresses characteristic of the period
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 empire

early 14c., from Old French empire "rule, authority, kingdom, imperial rule," from Latin imperium "rule, command," from imperare "to command," from im- "in" (see in- (2)) + parare "to order, prepare" (see pare).

Not etymologically restricted to "territory ruled by an emperor," but used that way. The Empire, meaning "the British Empire," first recorded 1772 (it officially devolved into "The Commonwealth" in 1931); before that it meant the Holy Roman Empire (1670s). Empire style (especially in reference to a style of dresses with high waistlines) is 1869, from the Second Empire "rule of Napoleon III of France" (1852-70). New York has been called the Empire State since 1834.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper