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 also sovranties

Definition of sovereignty

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

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
Recent Examples on the Web In class, a student gave a speech saying that the country’s sovereignty cannot be violated. Peter Hessler, The New Yorker, 9 May 2022 Data sovereignty is an emerging concept as nations and coalitions develop strategies and regulations to prevent exposure of critical or sensitive data. Robert Napoli, Forbes, 25 Apr. 2022 Bodily sovereignty and purity tests have long been part of fascist and white nationalist playbooks. Derek Beres, Rolling Stone, 19 Apr. 2022 The Russian forces in Belarus, escalating tensions with the West, and an unspoken mandate that Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko fall in line with everything Putin says, is eroding the country’s sovereignty, experts say. Tristan Bove, Fortune, 5 Mar. 2022 By leaving out Ukraine’s short-lived but hard-fought period of independence in the early 20th century, Putin overlooks the country’s sovereignty, says Dobczansky. Katya Cengel, Smithsonian Magazine, 4 Mar. 2022 By then, the invasion of Georgia's capital Tbilisi had been averted, but with 20% of its territory occupied by Russia, the country's sovereignty was dangerously crippled. Natalia Antelava, CNN, 1 Mar. 2022 Indeed, food sovereignty was a cornerstone of 19th-century treaties in which the Ojibwe ceded millions of acres and retained their rights to fish, hunt and gather. Shantal Riley, Washington Post, 12 Jan. 2022 Tribal sovereignty, in a legal sense, was different 50 years ago. Meghan Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News, 21 Dec. 2021 See More

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.

First Known Use of sovereignty

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for sovereignty

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

Learn More About sovereignty

Time Traveler for sovereignty

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near sovereignty




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for sovereignty

Last Updated

17 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Sovereignty.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for sovereignty


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

More from Merriam-Webster on sovereignty

Nglish: Translation of sovereignty for Spanish Speakers

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Color

  • a light greenish blue color
  • Name that color:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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