autonomy

noun
au·​ton·​o·​my | \ ȯ-ˈtä-nə-mē How to pronounce autonomy (audio) \
plural autonomies

Definition of autonomy

1 : the quality or state of being self-governing especially : the right of self-government The territory was granted autonomy.
2 : self-directing freedom and especially moral independence personal autonomy
3 : a self-governing state

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Autonomy Has Origins in Law

Since nomos is Greek for "law", something autonomous makes its own laws. The amount of autonomy enjoyed by French-speaking Quebec, or of Palestinians in certain towns in Israel, or of independent-minded regions of Russia, have become major issues. The autonomy of individual states in the United States has posed serious constitutional questions for two centuries. The autonomy of children is almost always limited by their parents. But when those parents are elderly and begin driving poorly and getting confused about their finances, their children may see the need to limit their autonomy in much the same way.

Examples of autonomy in a Sentence

The Catalans take the matter of their language very seriously; it is an outward indication of their autonomy, of their distinction from the rest of Spain. — Polly Evans, It's Not About the Tapas, 2006 The term empire implies more than simple cultural dominance or preeminent military power. It applies to states that use force to occupy and control a group of other states or regions. The conquered states, robbed of autonomy and political independence, become colonies, provinces, or territories of the imperial power. Taxes are levied, laws are imposed, soldiers are conscripted, governors are installed—all without the consent of the subjugated state. — Michael J. Glennon, Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2002 The social payoff of the new knowledge would be new technology, then new industries and new jobs. Compton got nowhere with the administration, partly because he was an anti-New Dealer, partly because the government was unwilling to grant scientists the autonomy that they claimed, and partly because his program represented a trickle-down approach to economic recovery. — Daniel J. Kevles, New Republic, 30 Sept. 2002 Usually, Americans think of freedom as a condition of personal autonomy, independence from the will of others. This way of thinking reflects just the kind of distinction—between oneself and the rest of the group of which one is a part—that Dewey considered false. — Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club, 2001 a teacher who encourages individual autonomy The territory has been granted autonomy.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The Bank of Mexico has autonomy from the country’s government. Ira Iosebashvili, WSJ, "Mexican Finance Officials Seek to Boost Investor Confidence," 11 Jan. 2019 Each encounter reinforced the lack of humanity with which our male peers viewed women, our bodies, and our autonomy. Caroline Reilly, Teen Vogue, "Brett Kavanaugh Could Have Been a Virgin and Still Sexually Assaulted Dr. Ford," 30 Sep. 2018 Being around children seemed to threaten my autonomy. Zoe Wilder, Good Housekeeping, "Why I Couldn't Care Less About Having Kids," 15 June 2015 An Amphibious Transport Dock, or LPD, is designed to operate with greater autonomy from an ARG and potentially conduct independent operations as needed. Kris Osborn, Fox News, "Navy pushes for more amphibious assault ships," 13 July 2018 No automakers or tech companies are ready for total autonomy, in which a car can handle any circumstance in any location at any time on its own. Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY, "Daimler's Mercedes-Benz, Bosch to launch self-driving car service in Silicon Valley," 10 July 2018 Unlike aerial drones, autonomous undersea vehicles must be equipped with sophisticated autonomy and enough redundant systems to maintain power and stay submerged even if something goes wrong. Samantha Masunaga, latimes.com, "Boeing's robot submarine is back roaming off the California coast," 23 June 2018 As such, the brain is key to agency, autonomy and responsibility. Laura Y. Cabrera, Scientific American, "It’s Not My Fault, My Brain Implant Made Me Do It," 3 Apr. 2018 That person, along with staff, is intended to be able to operate with some autonomy, serving a two-year term designed to insulate the office from retaliation. Joshua Miller And Matt Stout, BostonGlobe.com, "House set to create office to investigate misconduct claims," 15 Mar. 2018

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

circa 1623, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for autonomy

see autonomous

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Statistics for autonomy

Last Updated

10 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for autonomy

The first known use of autonomy was circa 1623

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More Definitions for autonomy

autonomy

noun

English Language Learners Definition of autonomy

: the state of existing or acting separately from others
: the power or right of a country, group, etc., to govern itself

autonomy

noun
au·​ton·​o·​my | \ -mē How to pronounce autonomy (audio) \
plural autonomies

Medical Definition of autonomy

1 : the quality or state of being independent, free, and self-directing
2 : independence from the organism as a whole in the capacity of a part for growth, reactivity, or responsiveness

autonomy

noun
au·​ton·​o·​my | \ ȯ-ˈtä-nə-mē How to pronounce autonomy (audio) \

Legal Definition of autonomy

: the quality or state of being self-governing especially : the right of self-government

Other Words from autonomy

autonomous \ -​məs How to pronounce autonomous (audio) \ adjective
autonomously adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on autonomy

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with autonomy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for autonomy

Spanish Central: Translation of autonomy

Nglish: Translation of autonomy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of autonomy for Arabic Speakers

Comments on autonomy

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