autocrat

noun

au·​to·​crat ˈȯ-tə-ˌkrat How to pronounce autocrat (audio)
1
: a person (such as a monarch) ruling with unlimited authority
2
: one who has undisputed influence or power
He was the autocrat of his household.

Examples of autocrat in a Sentence

European autocrats once commonly believed that they had received the right to rule directly from God.
Recent Examples on the Web Just four months later, in 2011, Libyans marched against Colonel el-Qaddafi’s 42-year grip on power, inspired by the uprisings that had toppled Arab autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt. James Glanz, New York Times, 16 Sep. 2023 Though Italy had invaded Greece in October 1940, this initial assault failed, with the Greeks proving more resilient than Italian autocrat Benito Mussolini anticipated. Carolyn Hagler, Smithsonian Magazine, 14 Sep. 2023 The competition-is-for-losers set never let go of their dream of being autocrats of trade. Cory Doctorow, WIRED, 7 Sep. 2023 Amazon is an enormously powerful autocrat of trade. Cory Doctorow, WIRED, 7 Sep. 2023 Every autocrat identifies totally with the state and its servants: Putin does not need to choose between state and personal betrayal. Time, 24 Aug. 2023 And - and this is really advantageous sort of to autocrats and to those who would sow doubt and discord in our information space. CBS News, 2 July 2023 Its leader, Arafat’s aging successor Mahmoud Abbas, has presided over his rump of a fiefdom like other Arab autocrats in the region, stifling civil society and repeatedly dodging calls for fresh elections. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 13 Sep. 2023 Putin’s hubris is a lesson for all modern autocrats who are considering bossing around and humiliating their most powerful officials: Messiness doesn’t always equal loyalty. Ben Makuch, The New Republic, 26 July 2023 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

borrowed from French & Greek; French autocrate, borrowed from Greek autokratḗs "ruling by itself (of a mind), with sole authority (for a task)," from auto- auto- + -kratēs, adjective derivative of kratéō, krateîn "to be strong or powerful, have command, rule," derivative of krátos "strength, power, authority" — more at hard entry 1

Note: The Oxford English Dictionary, third edition, notes that the earliest English attestation of autocrat, from 1762, precedes the earliest French attestation by six years. The source in question, the newspaper The Public Advertiser, uses the word as part of the title of Catherine II, "Empress and Autocrat of all the Russias." "Autocrat" here most likely translates, with the loss of the feminine suffix, French autocratrice, a word used in the French titles of three Russian empresses: Anna (1730-40), Elizaveta Petrovna (1741-62), and Catherine (1762-1796). The masculine correspondent was autocrateur, which corresponds not to Greek autokratḗs, but rather to the adjective autokrátōr, which is better attested in ancient Greek in a wider array of meanings: "independent, with full authority, in control, with sole authority," and in the early Roman empire is used as the Greek equivalent of Latin imperātor (see imperator, emperor). Indeed, though the etymology above showing borrowing from autokratḗs is formally acceptable, English autocrate may more likely be a back-formation from autocracy (in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with the meanings "self-control" and "absolute power," and also spelled autocrasy, autocraty) (compare aristocrat, democrat). The Russian equivalents of French autocrateur and autocratrice were samoderžec and samoderžica (compare samoderžavie "autocracy"), which themselves represent calques on Greek autokrátōr, though at a much earlier period (Old Church Slavic samodrŭžĭcĭ, samodrŭžitelĭ, from samo- "self" and drŭžati "to hold, have, control").

First Known Use

1762, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of autocrat was in 1762

Dictionary Entries Near autocrat

Cite this Entry

“Autocrat.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/autocrat. Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition

autocrat

noun
au·​to·​crat ˈȯt-ə-ˌkrat How to pronounce autocrat (audio)
: a person who rules with unlimited authority

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