em·​pire | \ ˈem-ˌpī(-ə)r How to pronounce empire (audio) \

Definition of empire

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a(1) : a major political unit having a territory of great extent or a number of territories or peoples under a single sovereign authority especially : one having an emperor as chief of state
(2) : the territory of such a political unit
b : something resembling a political empire especially : an extensive territory or enterprise under single domination or control
2 : imperial sovereignty, rule, or dominion
3 capitalized [Empire State, nickname for New York] : a juicy apple with dark red skin that is a cross between a McIntosh apple and a Red Delicious apple


Em·​pire | \ ˈäm-ˌpir How to pronounce Empire (audio) , ˈem-ˌpī(-ə)r How to pronounce Empire (audio) \

Definition of Empire (Entry 2 of 2)

: of, relating to, or characteristic of a style (as of clothing or furniture) popular in early 19th century France

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for empire

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of empire in a Sentence

Noun She built a tiny business into a worldwide empire. He controlled a cattle empire in the heart of Texas.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Otto von Bismarck and his successors made Germany a great power, but the effort ended in the shipwreck of World War I. Adolf Hitler’s fever dreams of empire led to an even worse outcome. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, "Germany Needs to Become a Great Power Again," 13 May 2020 Now a household name, Bobbi Brown has created an empire that includes cosmetic and beauty products, a wellness-focused lifestyle site, and even a hotel, The George, in Montclair, New Jersey. Tanner Saunders, Travel + Leisure, "Makeup Mogul Bobbi Brown Is Auctioning Off a Wellness Weekend at Her Boutique Hotel," 30 Apr. 2020 But Andreas’s headiest insights deal with the material logic of empire. Steven Cohen, The New Republic, "How Drugs Made American Warfare," 17 Apr. 2020 The policy was paternalistic and pernicious, a tool of empire. Caitlin Fitz, The Atlantic, "Conquerors Armed With Spreadsheets," 8 Apr. 2020 Rastelli’s What started as a small local butcher in New Jersey, Rastelli’s has grown into an empire that ships responsibly raised meat with no hormones, steroids, or antibiotics around the country. Tanner Saunders, USA TODAY, "10 amazing meat subscription boxes to try," 30 Mar. 2020 Walker lived in Indianapolis when building an empire of hair care products made for African American women. David Lindquist, Indianapolis Star, "Modern female artists dominate soundtrack of Madam C.J. Walker Netflix series," 24 Mar. 2020 Alexey Mordashov has faced plenty of challenges building an empire spanning gold, power, steel, and tourism. Alex Sazonov, BostonGlobe.com, "Russian tycoons diverge on what to do with wealth," 7 Mar. 2020

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

See More

First Known Use of empire


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)


1852, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for empire


Middle English, "supreme power, position of an emperor, territory under an emperor's rule," borrowed from Anglo-French, going back to Latin imperium "authority over family members and slaves exercised by the head of a household, supreme administrative authority, dominion, power exercised by a Roman emperor," from imperāre "to give orders, exercise authority, hold political power" + -ium, deverbal suffix of function or state — more at emperor


French, from (le premier) Empire the first Empire of France

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about empire

Time Traveler for empire

Time Traveler

The first known use of empire was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for empire

Last Updated

26 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Empire.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empire. Accessed 5 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for empire


em·​pire | \ ˈem-ˌpīr How to pronounce empire (audio) \

Kids Definition of empire

1 : a group of territories or peoples under one ruler the Roman empire
2 : a country whose ruler is called an emperor

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on empire

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!