sov·​er·​eign·​ty | \ ˈsä-v(ə-)rən-tē How to pronounce sovereignty (audio) , -vərn-tē also ˈsə-\
variants: or less commonly sovranty
plural sovereignties

Definition of sovereignty

1 obsolete : supreme excellence or an example of it
2a : supreme power especially over a body politic
b : freedom from external control : autonomy
c : controlling influence
3 : one that is sovereign especially : an autonomous state

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Examples of sovereignty in a Sentence

Nor was the sovereignty of the Native Hawaiian race recognized at the time Hawaii became a state. — Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review, 18 July 2005 Cesaire's wrenching chant of self-affirmation announced a new era of intellectual and cultural sovereignty for black writers in French. — Lila Azam Zanganeh, New York Times Book Review, 12 June 2005 The position plunged him into a supremely complicated religious and political game. Throughout Europe the old order of divinely sanctioned kingdoms was battling models of popular sovereignty and citizenship inspired by the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the adolescent U.S. — David Van Biema, Time, 4 Sept. 2000 upon leaving home she felt that she had achieved sovereignty for the first time in her life as parts of the same sovereignty, the states should not enact laws intended to harm one another economically
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Recent Examples on the Web

These are generally tiny, out of the way spots where some eccentric insists on designing his own national flag and printing postage stamps, though no government on Earth recognizes his sovereignty. Ken Jennings, Condé Nast Traveler, "This Part of the U.S. Was a Micronation for 85 Years," 2 July 2018 Denmark, eager to appear supportive of Greenlandic sovereignty, had helped arrange the meetings, including with China Development Bank and the Export Import Bank of China. Jeremy Page, WSJ, "How the Pentagon Countered China’s Designs on Greenland," 10 Feb. 2019 Those who want to leave the EU focus on the issue of sovereignty. Peter Ford, The Christian Science Monitor, "As clock ticks down, Britain finally reveals its plan for Brexit. What now?," 11 July 2018 But the Trump administration opposes ceding enforcement to such panels, believing Washington could face binding decisions that undermine U.S. sovereignty. Vivian Salama, WSJ, "New Nafta Is Threatened by Partisan Split Over Enforcement," 13 Feb. 2019 Much of the Arctic is indeed Russian territory and fighter patrols are a way of enforcing Russian sovereignty. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Russia Resumes Fighter Patrols Over the North Pole," 6 Feb. 2019 Russia threatens war against Ukraine over naval sovereignty; Nancy Pelosi wins her party’s nomination for House speaker. Stavros Agorakis, Vox, "Vox Sentences: Russia threatens war with Ukraine — again," 29 Nov. 2018 In European capitals, officials complain that the US President's populist nationalism and economic sovereignty arguments reject values that have bolstered the West since World War II. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "The West is in crisis, despite Trump's glowing assessment," 9 June 2018 That arguably left Israel with the legal right under the original British Mandate to claim sovereignty over the entire 22% of Palestine outside modern Jordan. Daniel J. Arbess, WSJ, "The True-State Solution," 2 Jan. 2019

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sovereignty

Middle English soverainte, from Anglo-French sovereinté, from soverein — see sovereign entry 2

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Dictionary Entries near sovereignty






Sovetskaya Gavan'


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Last Updated

11 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for sovereignty

The first known use of sovereignty was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for sovereignty



English Language Learners Definition of sovereignty

: unlimited power over a country
: a country's independent authority and the right to govern itself


sov·​er·​eign·​ty | \ ˈsä-və-rən-tē How to pronounce sovereignty (audio) , ˈsä-vrən-\
plural sovereignties

Kids Definition of sovereignty

1 : supreme power especially over a political unit (as a country)
2 : a country's independent authority and right of self-control


sov·​er·​eign·​ty | \ ˈsä-vrən-tē, ˈsə-, -və-rən-\
plural sovereignties

Legal Definition of sovereignty

1a : supreme power especially over a body politic
b : freedom from external control : autonomy
2 : one that is sovereign especially : an autonomous state

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