noun \ˈsä-v(ə-)rən-tē, -vərn-tē also ˈsə-\

: unlimited power over a country

: a country's independent authority and the right to govern itself

plural sov·er·eign·ties

Full Definition of SOVEREIGNTY

obsolete :  supreme excellence or an example of it
a :  supreme power especially over a body politic
b :  freedom from external control :  autonomy
c :  controlling influence
:  one that is sovereign; especially :  an autonomous state


sov·er·eign·ty also sov·ran·ty \ˈsä-v(ə-)rən-tē, -vərn-tē also ˈsə-\


  1. <upon leaving home she felt that she had achieved sovereignty for the first time in her life>
  2. <as parts of the same sovereignty, the states should not enact laws intended to harm one another economically>
  3. Nor was the sovereignty of the Native Hawaiian race recognized at the time Hawaii became a state. —Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review, 18 July 2005


Middle English soverainte, from Anglo-French sovereinté, from soverein (see 2sovereign)
First Known Use: 14th century

Other Government and Politics Terms

agent provocateur, agitprop, autarky, cabal, egalitarianism, federalism, hegemony, plenipotentiary, popular sovereignty, socialism


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

In political theory, the ultimate authority in the decision-making process of the state and in the maintenance of order. In 16th-century France Jean Bodin used the concept of sovereignty to bolster the power of the king over his feudal lords, heralding the transition from feudalism to nationalism. By the end of the 18th century, the concept of the social contract led to the idea of popular sovereignty, or sovereignty of the people, through an organized government. The Hague Conventions, the Geneva Conventions, and the United Nations all have restricted the actions of sovereign countries in the international arena, as has international law.


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