au·​ton·​o·​mous | \ȯ-ˈtä-nə-məs \

Definition of autonomous 

1a : having the right or power of self-government an autonomous territory

b : undertaken or carried on without outside control : self-contained an autonomous school system

2a : existing or capable of existing independently an autonomous zooid

b : responding, reacting, or developing independently of the whole an autonomous growth

3 : controlled by the autonomic nervous system

4 : of, relating to, or marked by autonomy

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Other Words from autonomous

autonomously adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for autonomous

free, independent, sovereign, autonomous mean not subject to the rule or control of another. free stresses the complete absence of external rule and the full right to make all of one's own decisions. you're free to do as you like independent implies a standing alone; applied to a state it implies lack of connection with any other having power to interfere with its citizens, laws, or policies. the colony's struggle to become independent sovereign stresses the absence of a superior power and implies supremacy within a thing's own domain or sphere. separate and sovereign armed services autonomous stresses independence in matters pertaining to self-government. in this denomination each congregation is regarded as autonomous

Examples of autonomous in a Sentence

Native American nations are regarded as autonomous in many respects and thus not subject to a number of state and local laws.

Recent Examples on the Web

The California Department of Motor Vehicles’ permit allows Waymo to oversee up to 40 fully autonomous vehicles that can drive day and night on city streets, rural highways and highways that have posted speed limits up to 65 mph. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Bitcoin turns 10, Apple’s first $100 billion quarter?," 1 Nov. 2018 An engineer still must monitor the fully autonomous cars from a remote location and be able to steer and stop the vehicles if something goes wrong. Michael Liedtke, The Seattle Times, "Google spinoff to test truly driverless cars in California," 31 Oct. 2018 Yes, an Estonian company, aren't they all - has developed a fully autonomous robot bartender that's set to debut, silent T, in Europe. Fox News, "Gutfeld: The left is turning on the left," 15 Sep. 2018 The boycott is not the first time AI researchers have voiced calls for restrictions on autonomous weapons. Ben Westcott, CNN, "Scientists call for boycott of South Korean university over killer robot fears," 5 Apr. 2018 The National Transportation Safety Board, as well as other governmental agencies and law-enforcement officials, is still investigating the cause of the crash, which was the first fatality involving fully autonomous technology. Pete Bigelow, Car and Driver, "After Crash, Arizona Governor Suspends Uber Self-Driving-Vehicle Testing," 27 Mar. 2018 The crash Sunday night in Tempe, involving a Volvo XC90 SUV operated by Uber, is believed to be the first death involving a fully autonomous test vehicle, according to The Arizona Republic. Don Sweeney, sacbee, "Dashcam video shows moments before fatal self-driving Uber collision with pedestrian | The Sacramento Bee," 22 Mar. 2018 The crash Sunday night in Tempe, Ariz., was the first death involving a fully autonomous test vehicle. Jacques Billeaud And Tom Krisher, The Christian Science Monitor, "First pedestrian fatality from self-driving vehicle raises more safety concerns," 20 Mar. 2018 Like most car companies, Ford is racing to develop fully autonomous vehicle technology. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Walmart agrees to work with Ford on self-driving grocery delivery pilot," 14 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'autonomous.' 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 autonomous

1799, in the meaning defined at sense 4

History and Etymology for autonomous

Greek autonomos independent, from aut- + nomos law — more at nimble

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Last Updated

14 Dec 2018

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The first known use of autonomous was in 1799

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English Language Learners Definition of autonomous

: existing or acting separately from other things or people

: having the power or right to govern itself


au·​ton·​o·​mous | \ȯ-ˈtän-ə-məs \

Medical Definition of autonomous 

1 : of, relating to, or marked by autonomy

2a : not forming a part (as does an embryo or seed) in the developmental sequence of an organism

b : responding, reacting, or developing independently of the whole a tumor is an autonomous growth

3 : under control of the autonomic nervous system

Other Words from autonomous

autonomously adverb

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


a knickknack or trinket

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