au·​to·​ceph·​a·​lous ˌȯ-tō-ˈse-f(ə-)ləs How to pronounce autocephalous (audio)
: independent of external and especially patriarchal authority
used especially of Eastern national churches
autocephaly noun

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The ongoing invasion has spurred Orthodox bishops to separate from the patriarchate of Moscow and begin operating autocephalous episcopal sees. Fox News, 4 June 2022 Kirill still claims jurisdiction over all of Ukraine despite the establishment, in Kyiv, of a nationwide autocephalous church in 2018. Nr Editors, National Review, 17 Mar. 2022 The fight for an autocephalous, or independent, church is a long and divisive history and so theologically labyrinthine that scholars disagree on major points. Alexander Thompson, The Christian Science Monitor, 1 Mar. 2022 Three other autocephalous churches have explicitly rejected the new church. J. Eugene Clay, The Conversation, 7 Feb. 2022 Each autocephalous church has its own head, or kephale in Greek. J. Eugene Clay, The Conversation, 7 Feb. 2022 The idea of an autocephalous, or independent, Ukrainian church has long been a dream of Ukrainian nationalists. Fred Weir, The Christian Science Monitor, 17 Apr. 2019 The decision marked a step toward establishing an ecclesiastically independent – or autocephalous – church in Ukraine. Vladimir Isachenkov, The Seattle Times, 15 Oct. 2018 The move comes as Ukraine strives to create an autocephalous church, independent of Moscow, in an attempt to cut ties with Russia as much as possible. Thomas Grove, WSJ, 30 Nov. 2018 See More

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

Word History


Late Greek autokephalos, from Greek aut- + kephalē head — more at cephalic

First Known Use

circa 1754, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of autocephalous was circa 1754

Dictionary Entries Near autocephalous

Cite this Entry

“Autocephalous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Mar. 2023.

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