: relating to, characteristic of, or befitting a supreme ruler : royal
a sovereign right
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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.
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
Examples of sovereign in a Sentence
NounRicky Martin, sovereign of Latin pop culture, is back.—Raquel Cepeda, Vibe, May 1999During 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 AdjectiveLocal 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 2005If 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
That means a system in which Israel is the sole sovereign between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.—Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 28 Nov. 2023 King Charles was also decked out in accordance with the white tie dress code for the state banquet, wearing his decorations, medals, the Garter Star and the Thistle Stars along with the neck order, the sovereign's badge of the Order of the Bath.—Stephanie Petit, Peoplemag, 21 Nov. 2023 OpenAI’s board of directors has chosen to wield its inhibitory power, but its members are not A.I. sovereigns; their employees can always go elsewhere.—Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker, 21 Nov. 2023 So the issue became about Jerusalem, and people toyed with all sorts of ideas, even that God will be the sovereign over the Temple Mount.—Emily Bazelon, New York Times, 20 Nov. 2023 Queen Camilla is known to follow Queen Elizabeth’s style lead, from using clear umbrellas to carrying a Launer clutch, the late sovereign’s go-to handbag brand.—Janine Henni, Peoplemag, 7 Nov. 2023 The illustration Radburn found stands out in that it is described in a contemporaneous account and appears to reference not just British nobility but the sovereign in particular.—Karla Adam, Washington Post, 28 Sep. 2023 But the change of sovereign for the first time in seven decades has energized the republican movement and given greater urgency to questions about the role of the monarchy in modern times.—Karla Adam, Washington Post, 7 Sep. 2023 For 20 years, the role of the sovereign has belonged to Fred Nelson of Glen Burnie.—Mike Klingaman, Baltimore Sun, 18 Sep. 2023
King Charles began his address with a welcome in Korean, which was met with applause, and praised the relationship that South Korea and Great Britain share, further commending South Korea’s strides in sustainability — a longtime cause close to heart for sovereign — and BLACKPINK’s impact.—Janine Henni, Peoplemag, 21 Nov. 2023 And, in awakening Dorothy to her own inner resources, Granite awakens the young woman’s sense of her fellow-humans as sovereign selves.—Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 21 Nov. 2023 Altman was also courting Middle East sovereign wealth funding for the development of AI chips that would compete with Nvidia’s, according to Bloomberg.—WIRED, 18 Nov. 2023 The latter is a sovereign country with its own government, citizens, economy, and complex dynamics.—Sarah E. Parkinson, Foreign Affairs, 14 Nov. 2023 Two-State Solution: The idea of Israelis and Palestinians living side-by-side in their own sovereign countries is getting a new hearing in foreign-policy circles, with diplomats and analysts saying that the war may breathe new life into it.—Andrés R. Martínez, New York Times, 6 Nov. 2023 But Taiwan’s current government regards the island as a de facto sovereign country.—Laura He, CNN, 23 Oct. 2023 The new commercial joint venture will be 70% majority owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, while the South Korean automaker will control the remaining minority stake.—Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 23 Oct. 2023 These are penalties piled on national governments, as well as their companies, officials and tycoons, usually leveled as punishment for violating human rights at home, or unleashing their platoons and planes to grab territory from another sovereign state.—Shawn Tully, Fortune, 11 Nov. 2023 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sovereign.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
Middle English soverain, from Anglo-French soverein, from soverein, adjective — see sovereignentry 2
Middle English soverain, from Anglo-French soverein, from Vulgar Latin *superanus, from Latin super over, above — more at over