au·​thor·​i·​ty ə-ˈthȯr-ə-tē How to pronounce authority (audio)
plural authorities
: power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior
the president's authority
: freedom granted by one in authority : right
Who gave you the authority to do as you wish?
: persons in command
specifically : government
the local authorities of each state
: a governmental agency or corporation to administer a revenue-producing public enterprise
the transit authority
the city's housing authority
: grounds, warrant
had excellent authority for believing the claim
: convincing force
lent authority to the performance
: a citation (as from a book or file) used in defense or support
: the source from which the citation is drawn
He quoted extensively from the Bible, his sole authority.
: a conclusive statement or set of statements (such as an official decision of a court)
: a decision taken as a precedent
: an individual cited or appealed to as an expert
The prosecutor called the psychiatrist as an authority.
Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of authority in a Sentence

The boss is not popular but his authority is unquestioned. She has an air of authority. Her southern accent lent authority to her performance. We reported the incident to hospital authorities. Local authorities are investigating the accident.
Recent Examples on the Web Newsom added that authorities have conducted samples underneath the concrete pillars and crews will continue to fix up the site, emphasizing the work will continue around the clock. Stepheny Price, Fox News, 20 Nov. 2023 If the person is identified, authorities are asking the public to contact the State Fire Marshal’s arson and bomb unit at or contact the Cal Fire arson hotline at 800-468-4408. Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times, 18 Nov. 2023 The out-of-control fire burned for three hours and spread over what authorities described as the equivalent of six football fields before it was extinguished. Meredith Deliso, ABC News, 18 Nov. 2023 The name of the victim is also being withheld, authorities said. Dan rosenzweig-Ziff, Washington Post, 17 Nov. 2023 Texas authorities are investigating an arson case after the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office says someone threw a Molotov cocktail at a Buddhist Temple Sunday night. Stepheny Price, Fox News, 8 Nov. 2023 Opposing protesters — pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian — had taken a stand on either side of the intersection when an altercation occurred, authorities said. Jeremy Childs, Los Angeles Times, 7 Nov. 2023 Kessler fell backward during the altercation, authorities said, hitting his head on the ground. Jolie Lash, ABC News, 7 Nov. 2023 An 11-year-old boy was killed and five others wounded in a drive-by shooting in Cincinnati on Friday, authorities said. Nicole Acosta, Peoplemag, 6 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'authority.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English autorite, auctorite, borrowed from Anglo-French autorité, auctorité, borrowed from Latin auctōritāt-, auctōritās "right of ownership, sanction, approval, the power to authorize or sanction, convincing force of an utterance or appearance," from auctōr-, auctor "originator, creator, authority" + -itāt-, -itās -ity — more at author entry 1

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4a

Time Traveler
The first known use of authority was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near authority

Cite this Entry

“Authority.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


au·​thor·​i·​ty ə-ˈthär-ət-ē How to pronounce authority (audio)
plural authorities
: a fact or statement that is used to support a position or decision
: a person looked to as an expert
: the right to give commands : the power to influence the behavior of others
the authority to hire workers
: persons having powers of government
local authorities
: the quality of being convincing
spoke with authority

Legal Definition


plural authorities
: an official decision of a court used especially as a precedent
: a power to act especially over others that derives from status, position, or office
the authority of the president
also : jurisdiction
: 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 enteringNational Law Journal
: 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

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
: a person in a position of power and especially a public office
usually used in pl.
the local authorities
: a government agency or corporation that administers a revenue-producing public enterprise
the transit authority
: a government agency or public office responsible for an area of regulation
should apply for a permit to the permitting authority

More from Merriam-Webster on authority

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!