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


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

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 The swells, the potentates would have gone off with their concubines and pet slaves and soldier guards . . . Lance Morrow, WSJ, "Did Chivalry Go Down With the Titanic?," 14 Dec. 2018 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

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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Statistics for potentate

Last Updated

3 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for potentate

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

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More Definitions for potentate



English Language Learners Definition of potentate

literary : a powerful ruler

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miscellaneous remnants or debris

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