au·​thor·​i·​ty | \ə-ˈthär-ə-tē, ȯ-, -ˈthȯr-\
plural authorities

Definition of authority 

1a : power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior the president's authority

b : freedom granted by one in authority : right Who gave you the authority to do as you wish?

2a : persons in command specifically : government the local authorities of each state

b : a governmental agency or corporation to administer a revenue-producing public enterprise the transit authority the city's housing authority

3a : grounds, warrant had excellent authority for believing the claim

b : convincing force lent authority to the performance

4a(1) : a citation (as from a book or file) used in defense or support

(2) : the source from which the citation is drawn He quoted extensively from the Bible, his sole authority.

b(1) : a conclusive statement or set of statements (such 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 The prosecutor called the psychiatrist as an authority.

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Synonyms & Antonyms for authority


ace, adept, artist, cognoscente, connoisseur, crackerjack (also crackajack), dab [chiefly British], dab hand [chiefly British], expert, fiend, geek, guru, hand, hotshot, maestro, master, maven (also mavin), meister, past master, proficient, scholar, shark, sharp, virtuoso, whiz, wizard


amateur, inexpert, nonexpert

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Allegedly, French authorities claimed implants with the unapproved gel were only used after 2001. Kaleigh Fasanella, Allure, "Over 5,000 British Women Are Being Accused of Lying About Getting Defunct Breast Implants," 1 Oct. 2018 All passengers were screened by local health authorities prior to disembarkation. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "Vanilla Ice and 500+ Other People Were Trapped on a Quarantined Plane Yesterday," 6 Sep. 2018 On arrival, as a precaution, they were attended to by local health authorities. Sebastian Modak, Condé Nast Traveler, "Emirates Plane Quarantined at New York-JFK Due to Reports of Sick Passengers," 5 Sep. 2018 In an interview, Senator Jones said the killing or any other case likely wouldn't be covered by this legislation if authorities were actively investigating. Jay Reeves, The Christian Science Monitor, "FBI reopens Emmett Till murder case in light of possible new information," 12 July 2018 Although the 1912 federal Rivers and Harbors Act transferred authority to the Port of Portland Commission, the port was then so important nationally that the US Army Corps of Engineers maintained it. Longreads, "Oregon’s Racist Past," 12 July 2018 Further, Kavanaugh argued that to require immigration authorities to stop blocking her from accessing this right would force the government into complicity. Sam Dangremond, Town & Country, "Yale Law Students and Alumni Denounce School's Support of Brett Kavanaugh," 11 July 2018 British authorities investigating the poisoning of two people have found a bottle believed to have contained Novichok, a nerve agent that was also used against a former Russian spy and his daughter, the Metropolitan Police said Friday. NBC News, "British police determine source of nerve agent that poisoned couple," 13 July 2018 But when federal authorities arrived days later to study the circumstances, their aim wasn’t to second guess so much as to understand what happened and pass on those lessons. Mike Hendricks, kansascity, "In a tragic loop, firefighters continue to die from preventable mistakes," 13 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'authority.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of authority

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

History and Etymology for authority

Middle English auctorite, from Anglo-French auctorité, from Latin auctoritat-, auctoritas opinion, decision, power, from auctor — see author entry 1

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Statistics for authority

Last Updated

20 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for authority

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

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More Definitions for authority



English Language Learners 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


au·​thor·​i·​ty | \ə-ˈthȯr-ə-tē \
plural authorities

Kids Definition of authority

1 : power to exercise control

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

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

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


plural authorities

Legal Definition of authority 

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

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 enteringNational 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

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 : a person in a position of power and especially a public office usually used in pl. the local authorities

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

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Comments on authority

What made you want to look up authority? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


an inexhaustible supply or amount

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