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


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

Other Words from sovereign


sovereignly adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for sovereign


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


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 The exhibition coincides with a major milestone for Britain’s longest-reigning sovereign. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 18 Apr. 2022 Korea’s first female sovereign, Queen Seondeok, reigned in the Silla Dynasty, more than 700 years before Joseon’s subjugation of women. Vogue, 4 Apr. 2022 There are good reasons to compensate foreign lenders, but relying exclusively on the goodwill of a sovereign is treacherous. Jay Newman, WSJ, 9 Mar. 2022 Through the structure of its government, and the character of those who exercise government authority, a State defines itself as a sovereign. Dan Mclaughlin, National Review, 16 Feb. 2022 One day, he is set to be the younger brother of a sovereign with whom he has never been believed to be particularly close. Victoria Murphy, Town & Country, 12 Feb. 2022 Had the war been declared by a responsible sovereign? Valerie Morkevicius, The Conversation, 5 Mar. 2022 One of the priciest residences in a London real-estate project backed by Qatar’s sovereign-wealth fund is coming on the market for about $78 million, according to a representative for the developer. Katherine Clarke, WSJ, 1 Feb. 2022 When the empire collapsed after World War I, a local notable, Ahmet Zogu, was elevated to sovereign of an independent kingdom. Washington Post, 21 Jan. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Newman became known as is the ultimate hardball negotiator of sovereign debt. Michael Taylor, San Antonio Express-News, 27 Apr. 2022 The Kremlin attempted to use rubles to meet an interest payment on some of its $40 billion of sovereign debt early this month, after U.S. sanctions prevented the country from settling its interest payments in dollars. Nicholas Gordon, Fortune, 21 Apr. 2022 And the response has been a rallying of sovereign nations that no living person has seen before. WSJ, 30 Mar. 2022 Others feared a takeover of Ukraine would be swift, and the Kremlin’s sights would then shift to other sovereign nations. Andrew Brinker,, 24 Feb. 2022 China, walking a fine line between its support for Mr. Putin and its support for the territorial integrity of sovereign nations, has declined to criticize Russia, while saying those norms must be upheld. New York Times, 22 Feb. 2022 The countries that used to make up the Soviet Union other than Russia are not considered sovereign by Russia -- by most Russians in fact, and especially by Putin. James Nixey, CNN, 29 Apr. 2022 But airlines must collect detailed passenger information for every purchase; this isn’t an anonymized market that might benefit from the crypto world’s self-sovereign identity possibilities. Rob Pegoraro, PCMAG, 29 Apr. 2022 The land the resort sits on is where a former summer cottage of the last sovereign monarch of Hawaii, Queen Lili’uokalani, was found in the late 1800s. Malik Peay, Essence, 28 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of sovereign


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


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

History and Etymology for sovereign


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


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

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Last Updated

3 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Sovereign.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for sovereign


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



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


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

Medical Definition of sovereign

: having generalized curative powers a sovereign remedy


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



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

More from Merriam-Webster on sovereign

Nglish: Translation of sovereign for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sovereign for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about sovereign


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