sovereign

noun
sov·​er·​eign | \ ˈsä-v(ə-)rən How to pronounce sovereign (audio) , -vərn also ˈsə-\
variants: or less commonly sovran

Definition of sovereign

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : one possessing or held to possess supreme political power or sovereignty
b : one that exercises supreme authority within a limited sphere
c : an acknowledged leader : arbiter
2 : any of various gold coins of the United Kingdom

sovereign

adjective
sov·​er·​eign | \ ˈsä-v(ə-)rən How to pronounce sovereign (audio) , -vərn also ˈsə-\
variants: or less commonly sovran

Definition of sovereign (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : superlative in quality
b : of the most exalted kind : supreme sovereign virtue
c : having generalized curative powers a sovereign remedy
d : of an unqualified nature : unmitigated sovereign contempt
e : having undisputed ascendancy : paramount
2a : possessed of supreme power a sovereign ruler
b : unlimited in extent : absolute
c : enjoying autonomy : independent sovereign states
3 : relating to, characteristic of, or befitting a supreme ruler : royal a sovereign right

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from sovereign

Adjective

sovereignly adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for sovereign

Adjective

free, independent, sovereign, autonomous mean not subject to the rule or control of another. free stresses the complete absence of external rule and the full right to make all of one's own decisions. you're free to do as you like independent implies a standing alone; applied to a state it implies lack of connection with any other having power to interfere with its citizens, laws, or policies. the colony's struggle to become independent sovereign stresses the absence of a superior power and implies supremacy within a thing's own domain or sphere. separate and sovereign armed services autonomous stresses independence in matters pertaining to self-government. in this denomination each congregation is regarded as autonomous

Sovereign Power

Adjective

Sovereign has everything to do with power. It often describes a person who has supreme power or authority, such as a king or queen. God is described as "sovereign" in a number of Bible translations. In addition to describing ones who have power, the word sovereign also often describes power: to have sovereign power is to have absolute power—that is, power that cannot be checked by anyone or anything. Nations and states are also sometimes described as "sovereign." This means that they have power over themselves; their government is under their own control, rather than under the control of an outside authority.

Sovereign can also be a synonym of supreme as in "of the most exalted kind." In that case, the power is figurative rather than literal.

Examples of sovereign in a Sentence

Noun

Ricky Martin, sovereign of Latin pop culture, is back. — Raquel Cepeda, Vibe, May 1999 During these two centuries the throne of Scotland was occupied by no more than seven sovereigns of only four different generations. — G. W. S. Barrow, The Anglo-Norman Era In Scottish History, 1980 after the current sovereign dies, the monarchy may be abolished

Adjective

Local officials and a huge and enthusiastic crowd greeted Napoleon at the Portoferraio harbor. The Allies had granted him the title of Emperor of Elba, which was to be a sovereign state under his jurisdiction. — David Pryce-Jones, National Review, 4 July 2005 If Cleopatra VII used her own personality more like Elizabeth I than Elizabeth II, she seems to have had the latter Elizabeth's sovereign sense of duty—as well as her fertility: With a dispatch usually associated with the gods, Cleopatra bore Caesar a son called Caesarion—"little Caesar"—in 47 B.C.E., the year after they met (she was twenty-one, he fifty-two). — Ingrid D. Rowland, New Republic, 1 & 8 April 2002 the sovereign power of a king The government's sovereign duty is to protect the rights of its citizens.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Kate Middleton and Kate Middleton joined the queen and other royal family members for lunch at the sovereign's residence at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kate Middleton and Prince William Lunch with the Queen in Laid-Back Looks," 23 Aug. 2019 Saying that the federal government and the states are independent sovereigns, the court has allowed separate prosecutions of the same conduct in state and federal courts. Adam Liptak, BostonGlobe.com, "Supreme Court affirms exception to double jeopardy in a case with implications for Trump associates," 17 June 2019 The fortune—all in gold sovereigns—arrived in New York City aboard the packet ship Mediator, two years later. Michael Waters, Smithsonian, "Mr. Smithson’s Family Goes to Washington," 14 June 2019 For more than 250 years, the sovereign has celebrated his or her birthday alongside the military parade. Karla Adam, Washington Post, "Queen Elizabeth II, master of soft power, celebrates her 93rd birthday with a massive parade," 8 June 2019 Longer term, the reputational harm to Goldman may result in fewer mandates for business in Southeast Asia and from emerging-market sovereign and semi-sovereign issuers world-wide. Aaron Back, WSJ, "Goldman Wakes Up to 1MDB Reckoning," 17 Nov. 2018 At the time of the Fifth Amendment’s adoption, an offense was understood to be a wrong defined under the law of a particular sovereign; therefore, if there are two sovereigns, and the same act violates the laws of each, there are two offenses. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "The Supreme Court Was Right to Uphold the Dual-Sovereignty Doctrine," 19 June 2019 Imagine trying to explain the Court’s separate sovereigns rule to a criminal defendant, then or now. WSJ, "Notable & Quotable: Gorsuch Dissents in Gamble," 18 June 2019 But long before that, some critics have questioned the separate sovereigns doctrine. al.com, "Supreme Court rules in Alabama double jeopardy case with possible Manafort ramifications," 17 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

That changed in 2017 when Softbank launched the Vision Fund, a $93 billion fund that took nearly half its funding from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Alison Griswold, Quartz, "Softbank, WeWork’s biggest investor, has lost its appetite for a WeWork IPO," 10 Sep. 2019 Al-Falih said on Twitter that he will be replaced by Yasir Al-Rumayyan, head of the sovereign wealth fund. BostonGlobe.com, "More than half of state AGs preparing probe into Google for possible antitrust violations," 4 Sep. 2019 That included $474 million in investment from Saudi and Emirati sovereign wealth funds, out of $7 billion that Colony raised in investment worldwide. New York Times, "Federal Inquiry of Trump Friend Focused on Foreign Lobbying," 28 July 2019 The Constitution, the court said, granted states sovereign immunity, shielding them from federal lawsuits. Adam Liptak, New York Times, "Blackbeard’s Ship Heads to Supreme Court in a Battle Over Another Sort of Piracy," 2 Sep. 2019 Meanwhile, Sudan’s newly created sovereign council declared a state of emergency in Port Sudan. The Economist, "Politics this week," 29 Aug. 2019 In a 3-0 decision, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said Kim Davis can be sued in her individual capacity, though sovereign immunity shielded her from being sued in her former role as Rowan County Clerk. NBC News, "Kentucky clerk who refused gay marriage licenses can be sued," 26 Aug. 2019 In a 3-0 decision, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said Kim Davis can be sued in her individual capacity, though sovereign immunity shielded her from being sued in her former role as Rowan County Clerk. Reuters, The Mercury News, "Couples denied marriage licenses can sue Kim Davis," 23 Aug. 2019 On Tuesday, Rupert Murdoch's Dow Jones & Company shared a tale of woe with the Supreme Court as the justices prepare to resolve whether state governments have sovereign immunity from copyright claims. Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, "Wall Street Journal Publisher Tells Supreme Court of Being Victimized by California," 14 Aug. 2019

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

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Adjective

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

History and Etymology for sovereign

Noun

Middle English soverain, from Anglo-French soverein, from soverein, adjective — see sovereign entry 2

Adjective

Middle English soverain, from Anglo-French soverein, from Vulgar Latin *superanus, from Latin super over, above — more at over

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about sovereign

Dictionary Entries near sovereign

sov

SOV

sovenance

sovereign

sovereignty

Sovetsk

Sovetskaya Gavan'

Statistics for sovereign

Last Updated

27 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sovereign

The first known use of sovereign was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for sovereign

sovereign

noun

English Language Learners Definition of sovereign

 (Entry 1 of 2)

formal : a king or queen
: a British gold coin that was used in the past

sovereign

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of sovereign (Entry 2 of 2)

formal
: having unlimited power or authority
: not limited
: having independent authority and the right to govern itself

sovereign

noun
sov·​er·​eign | \ ˈsä-və-rən How to pronounce sovereign (audio) , ˈsä-vrən\

Kids Definition of sovereign

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a person (as a king or queen) having the highest power and authority
2 : an old British gold coin

sovereign

adjective

Kids Definition of sovereign (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : highest in power or authority a sovereign ruler
2 : having independent authority a sovereign state
3 : of the most important kind a sovereign duty

sovereign

adjective
sov·​er·​eign | \ ˈsäv-(ə-)rən How to pronounce sovereign (audio) \

Medical Definition of sovereign

: having generalized curative powers a sovereign remedy

Keep scrolling for more

sovereign

noun
sov·​er·​eign | \ ˈsä-vrən, ˈsə-, -və-rən\

Legal Definition of sovereign

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person or political entity (as a nation or state) possessing or held to possess sovereignty the doctrine that a sovereign could not be sued without its consent was universal in the States when the Constitution was draftedAlden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706 (1999) — see also sovereign immunity at immunity

sovereign

adjective

Legal Definition of sovereign (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : having supreme power a sovereign ruler
2 : enjoying autonomy sovereign states
3 : relating to, characteristic of, or befitting a sovereign

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on sovereign

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

WORD OF THE DAY

to wander slowly or to speak indistinctly

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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