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

This arrangement is a nod to the principle of national sovereignty in climate diplomacy. Johannes Urpelainen, Washington Post, "The Paris agreement’s emissions goals may be in trouble, with or without U.S. participation," 1 June 2018 This was a significant departure from the centuries-old doctrine of freedom of the seas, which respected a 12-mile limit to national sovereignty in coastal waters. Steve Haycox, Anchorage Daily News, "Why signing the Law of the Sea treaty would mean a tougher U.S. position in the Arctic," 22 Mar. 2018 But the Crimea thing highlights something much more important, which is this awful meeting of sort of the Bernie bros and the Trump people on this question of eating away at other country's sovereignty. NBC News, "Meet the Press - July 8, 2018," 8 July 2018 But, in the early 1970s, Native Hawaiians were engaging in a wave of activism to defend Hawaiian culture, language and sovereignty. Time Staff, Time, "The 25 Moments From American History That Matter Right Now," 28 June 2018 Locking up their families might look cruel when viewed in isolation; but when understood in the broader context of a migrant crisis that threatens the safety and sovereignty of the American people, the policy is more than justified. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "We Owe Central American Migrants Much More Than This," 21 June 2018 Later historians framed Franklin as a hubristic imperialist, and more recently the Canadian government has used Franklin as an argument for Arctic sovereignty. Kat Eschner, Smithsonian, "Tales of the Doomed Franklin Expedition Long Ignored the Inuit Side, But “The Terror” Flips the Script," 6 Apr. 2018 Many international companies are precluded from storing data outside their countries because of regional data sovereignty laws. Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, "Microsoft's Cloud Is Expanding to Switzerland and the Middle East," 14 Mar. 2018 Its homecoming plot — in which T’Challa’s sovereignty is challenged by Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) — pits one uprooted black against another. Armond White, National Review, "Black Panther’s Circle of Hype," 16 Feb. 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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Sovetskaya Gavan'


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Last Updated

12 Sep 2018

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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 , 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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