po·​ten·​tate | \ˈpō-tᵊn-ˌtāt \

Definition of potentate 

: ruler, sovereign broadly : one who wields great power or sway

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Synonyms for potentate


autocrat, monarch, ruler, sovereign (also sovran)

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Did You Know?

Potentate has been wielding its power in English since the 15th century. It comes from the Late Latin potentatus, which in turn was formed from the Latin potent-, meaning "powerful." Other descendants of potent- in English include potent itself, impotent, and omnipotent, as well as the archaic armipotent and very rare bellipotent (meaning, respectively, "mighty in battle" and "mighty in war"). Even power and powerful can be traced back to potent-.

Examples of potentate in a Sentence

Charles inherited the position of potentate of the Holy Roman Empire from his grandfather, as well that of king of Spain from his father.

Recent Examples on the Web

Her father was a Shriner and member of El Korah and its former potentate. Maria L. La Ganga, idahostatesman, "What’s behind ’60s-era paneling at El Korah Shrine? A ballroom’s worth of ’20s art.," 12 July 2018 Many newspaper and radio journalists, especially in far-flung provinces, have been murdered because of their work, often by drug-traffickers or other local potentates. The Economist, "Latin America’s new media are growing up," 14 July 2018 Then last year the potentate at the time, Illustrious Sir Mike Yavno, and the recorder at the time, Max Bearden, formed a committee to look into the restoration and hired a plaster expert to do a study on this. Maria L. La Ganga, idahostatesman, "What’s behind ’60s-era paneling at El Korah Shrine? A ballroom’s worth of ’20s art.," 12 July 2018 Orlando Gutierrez, media potentate at Los Al, volunteered and penned this season preview. John Cherwa, latimes.com, "Racing! It’s post time at Los Alamitos," 28 June 2018 Halls that once swirled with cigar smoke and tulle frocks started welcoming PowerPoint potentates in plastic name-tags. New York Times, "We’ll Never Be Royals, But ...," 21 Apr. 2018 Until the late 19th century, popes chose the bishops of central Italy, but almost all other bishops around the world were picked by secular potentates or elected by local clergy. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "Even the Pope’s ‘Supreme’ Power Has Its Limits," 29 Apr. 2018 At 56, Mr Aliyev is the youngest of the Eurasian potentates. The Economist, "Azerbaijan’s president wins yet another term," 12 Apr. 2018 As potentate, the highest elected position within the Tripoli Shrine, Michael Geiger had nearly sovereign power, his attorney told a jury. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Former potentate of the Milwaukee Tripoli Shrine stands trial on embezzlement charges," 28 Feb. 2018

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

15th century, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

12 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for potentate

The first known use of potentate was in the 15th century

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English Language Learners Definition of potentate

: a powerful ruler

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to enclose within walls

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