po·​ten·​tate | \ ˈpō-tᵊn-ˌtāt How to pronounce potentate (audio) \

Definition of potentate

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

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Synonyms for potentate


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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 As the world’s oldest and largest management consulting firm, McKinsey has advised a long list of corporate giants, princes and potentates. azcentral, "UA's $14-million gamble: Consultant gave pricey advice to devise strategic plan," 9 Nov. 2019 Everywhere, pilfering potentates and their progeny must be nervous. The Economist, "How to hide a billion dollars," 10 Oct. 2019 Halpert was an art impresario, and discovering Harnett and Peto in the 1940s puts her on a parallel track with the Hollywood potentates who discovered Robert Mitchum, Lana Turner, and John Garfield. Brian T. Allen, National Review, "Edith Halpert and American Modernism," 14 Dec. 2019 One particularly unstable potentate, Siraj ud-Daulah, Nawab of Bengal, alienated his bankers, the Jagat Seths, and demanded foreign merchants dismantle their walls, which were erected mostly to defend against other European companies. Iain Murray, National Review, "The Rise of the East India Company Is Not a Cautionary Tale about Corporate Power," 2 Nov. 2019 In close to three years in power, the administration has courted or hosted virtually all the region’s unelected potentates, yoking its anti-Iranian agenda in part to the concerns of a clutch of Arab sheikhs and princes. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "The Trump administration’s obsession with an ancient Persian emperor," 1 Nov. 2019 Religious intolerance, devastating Persian and Afghan invasions, a series of weak and unstable rulers, and powerful viziers and regional potentates left the emperor imprisoned and his heir, Shah Alam, exiled from Delhi. Iain Murray, National Review, "The Rise of the East India Company Is Not a Cautionary Tale about Corporate Power," 2 Nov. 2019 After his reign, his empire disintegrated and smaller potentates took over minting. The Economist, "Arctic lead levels shed new light on Europe’s history," 10 July 2019 In short, the operatives of one party have, in the past couple of decades, systematically overcome every single barrier erected by the Constitutional Convention against the tyranny of mob or tyrant or foreign potentate. Kevin Baker, Harper's magazine, "The Crisis of Our Constitution," 10 Jan. 2019

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

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Last Updated

5 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Potentate.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/potentate. Accessed 21 January 2020.

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English Language Learners Definition of potentate

literary : a powerful ruler

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