sov·​er·​eign·​ty | \ˈsä-v(ə-)rən-tē, -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

The doctrine's concept is that warrants are not required to conduct a search at the border in the name of national sovereignty. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Cheese danish shipping, warrantless GPS trackers, and a border doctrine challenge," 2 Sep. 2018 In pursuit of fugitives, the Chinese authorities are increasingly willing to challenge the sovereignty of foreign governments and to seek the help of international agencies, even on spurious grounds. The Economist, "China’s law-enforcers are going global," 28 Mar. 2018 More than 20 years after the 1997 handover of sovereignty from Britain to China, Hong Kong is seeing new infrastructure projects, such as a super-speed train link with Beijing, and an ongoing political tug of war. Janice Leung Hayes, Condé Nast Traveler, "23 Best Things to Do in Hong Kong," 27 Feb. 2018 Djibouti’s government said a contract signed more than a decade ago granting DP World the concession violated the Horn of Africa nation’s sovereignty. Zainab Fattah,, "U.A.E. Jumps to DP World's Defense in Djibouti Port Dispute," 25 Feb. 2018 Still, the party wants Italy to have more sovereignty in economic choices. New York Times, "Why Italy’s Political Turmoil Is Causing Financial Angst Elsewhere," 29 May 2018 Addressing an audience that also included leaders from Lithuania, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, and Ukraine, Macron urged Europe to defend the global multilateral order, for the sake of the continent’s sovereignty. Geir Moulson,, "France’s Macron backs European unity amid US tensions," 10 May 2018 The assurance that slavery could be overcome inspired Jews to recover sovereignty in their homeland, which had been under foreign domination for two millennia. Ruth R. Wisse, WSJ, "To Appreciate Freedom, Remember Slavery," 29 Mar. 2018 Then there are two cases that might bring Native American rights and sovereignty some long overdue public attention. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "What the New Supreme Court Will Decide," 29 June 2018

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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Last Updated

21 Nov 2018

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

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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, 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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