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noun, au·thor·i·ty \ə-ˈthär-ə-tē, ȯ-, -ˈthȯr-\

Simple Definition of authority

  • : the power to give orders or make decisions : the power or right to direct or control someone or something

  • : the confident quality of someone who knows a lot about something or who is respected or obeyed by other people

  • : a quality that makes something seem true or real

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of authority

plural authorities

  1. 1 a (1) :  a citation (as from a book or file) used in defense or support (2) :  the source from which the citation is drawn b (1) :  a conclusive statement or set of statements (as an official decision of a court) (2) :  a decision taken as a precedent (3) :  testimony c :  an individual cited or appealed to as an expert

  2. 2 a :  power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior b :  freedom granted by one in authority :  right

  3. 3 a :  persons in command; specifically :  government b :  a governmental agency or corporation to administer a revenue-producing public enterprise <the transit authority>

  4. 4 a :  grounds, warrant <had excellent authority for believing the claim> b :  convincing force <lent authority to the performance>

Examples of authority in a sentence

  1. The boss is not popular but his authority is unquestioned.

  2. She has an air of authority.

  3. Her southern accent lent authority to her performance.

  4. We reported the incident to hospital authorities.

  5. Local authorities are investigating the accident.

Origin of authority

Middle English auctorite, from Anglo-French auctorité, from Latin auctoritat-, auctoritas opinion, decision, power, from auctor

First Known Use: 13th century

Synonym Discussion of authority

influence, authority, prestige, weight, credit mean power exerted over the minds or behavior of others. influence may apply to a force exercised and received consciously or unconsciously <used her influence to get the bill passed>. authority implies the power of winning devotion or allegiance or of compelling acceptance and belief <his opinions lacked authority>. prestige implies the ascendancy given by conspicuous excellence or reputation for superiority <the prestige of the newspaper>. weight implies measurable or decisive influence in determining acts or choices <their wishes obviously carried much weight>. credit suggests influence that arises from the confidence of others <his credit with the press>.

power, authority, jurisdiction, control, command, sway, dominion mean the right to govern or rule or determine. power implies possession of ability to wield force, authority, or influence <the power to mold public opinion>. authority implies power for a specific purpose within specified limits <granted the authority to manage her estate>. jurisdiction applies to official power exercised within prescribed limits <the bureau having jurisdiction over parks>. control stresses the power to direct and restrain <you are responsible for the students under your control>. command implies the power to make arbitrary decisions and compel obedience <the army officer in command>. sway suggests the extent of exercised power or influence <the empire extended its sway over the region>. dominion stresses sovereign power or supreme authority <given dominion over all the animals>.

power, force, energy, strength, might mean the ability to exert effort. power may imply latent or exerted physical, mental, or spiritual ability to act or be acted upon <the awesome power of flowing water>. force implies the actual effective exercise of power <used enough force to push the door open>. energy applies to power expended or capable of being transformed into work <a worker with boundless energy>. strength applies to the quality or property of a person or thing that makes possible the exertion of force or the withstanding of strain, pressure, or attack <use weight training to build your strength>. might implies great or overwhelming power or strength <the belief that might makes right>.

Rhymes with authority

AUTHORITY Defined for Kids


noun au·thor·i·ty \ə-ˈthȯr-ə-tē\

Definition of authority for Students

plural authorities

  1. 1 :  power to exercise control

  2. 2 :  a person looked to as an expert <She's a leading authority on fitness.>

  3. 3 :  people having powers to make decisions and enforce rules and laws <State authorities are investigating the disputed election.>

  4. 4 :  a fact or statement used to support a position <What is your authority for this argument?>

Law Dictionary


noun au·thor·i·ty

Legal Definition of authority

plural authorities

  1. 1 :  an official decision of a court used especially as a precedent

  2. 2a :  a power to act especially over others that derives from status, position, or office <the authority of the president>; also :  jurisdiction b :  the power to act that is officially or formally granted (as by statute, corporate bylaw, or court order) <within the scope of the treasurer's authority> <police officers executing a warrant…are not required to “knock and announce” their authority and purposes before entering — National Law Journal> c :  power and capacity to act granted by someone in a position of control; specifically :  the power to act granted by a principal to his or her agent actual authority :  the authority that a principal in reality has granted to an agent actual express authority :  the actual authority of an agent specifically stated or written by the principal actual implied authority :  the actual authority of an agent that the principal has not specified but has purposely or through negligence allowed the agent to believe has been granted apparent authority :  the authority that a principal purposely or through negligence allows a third party to believe that the principal's agent has although such authority has not in reality been granted —called also authority by estoppel, ostensible authority Editor's note: A principal is bound by the acts of an agent acting with apparent authority. express authority :  authority that is explicitly granted to an agent by a principal —called also expressed authority, stipulated authority implied authority :  the authority to perform acts that are customary, necessary, and understood by an agent as authorized in performing acts for which the principal has given express authority ostensible authority :  apparent authority in this entry stipulated authority :  express authority in this entry

  3. 3 :  a person in a position of power and especially a public office —usually used in plural <the local authorities>

  4. 4a :  a government agency or corporation that administers a revenue-producing public enterprise <the transit authority> b :  a government agency or public office responsible for an area of regulation <should apply for a permit to the permitting authority>

Seen and Heard

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