au·​thor·​i·​ty | \ ə-ˈthȯr-ə-tē How to pronounce authority (audio) , ȯ-, -ˈthär- \
plural authorities

Essential Meaning of authority

1 : the power to give orders or make decisions : the power or right to direct or control someone or something Only department managers have the authority [=right, power] to change the schedule. Does he have the authority to do this? = (US) Does he have authority to do this? See More ExamplesThis office has authority over personnel matters. [=this office has the power to make decisions about personnel matters] You don't have authority over me. [=you don't have the power to give me orders] The boss is not popular but his authority is unquestioned. "Who gave him the authority to do this?" "He didn't do it on his own authority [=he didn't do it on his own]; he was acting under the authority of the company president." [=the company president gave him the power to do it] No one in authority objected to the plan. = No one in a position of authority objected to the plan. [=no one with official power to make important decisions objected to the plan] a figure of authority = an authority figure [=a person who has authority over other people]Hide
2 : the confident quality of someone who knows a lot about something or who is respected or obeyed by other people She has an air of authority. She spoke with authority [=authoritatively] about the history of the building.
3 : a quality that makes something seem true or real His sincerity added much more authority [=credibility] to the story. Her southern accent lent authority to her performance. His opinions lacked authority.

Full Definition of authority

1a : power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior the president's authority
b : freedom granted by one in authority : right Who gave you the authority to do as you wish?
2a : persons in command specifically : government the local authorities of each state
b : a governmental agency or corporation to administer a revenue-producing public enterprise the transit authority the city's housing authority
3a : grounds, warrant had excellent authority for believing the claim
b : convincing force lent authority to the performance
4a(1) : a citation (as from a book or file) used in defense or support
(2) : the source from which the citation is drawn He quoted extensively from the Bible, his sole authority.
b(1) : a conclusive statement or set of statements (such as an official decision of a court)
(2) : a decision taken as a precedent
(3) : testimony
c : an individual cited or appealed to as an expert The prosecutor called the psychiatrist as an authority.

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Synonyms & Antonyms for authority



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Choose the Right Synonym for authority

influence, authority, prestige, weight, credit mean power exerted over the minds or behavior of others. influence may apply to a force exercised and received consciously or unconsciously. used her influence to get the bill passed authority implies the power of winning devotion or allegiance or of compelling acceptance and belief. his opinions lacked authority prestige implies the ascendancy given by conspicuous excellence or reputation for superiority. the prestige of the newspaper weight implies measurable or decisive influence in determining acts or choices. their wishes obviously carried much weight credit suggests influence that arises from the confidence of others. his credit with the press

power, authority, jurisdiction, control, command, sway, dominion mean the right to govern or rule or determine. power implies possession of ability to wield force, authority, or influence. the power to mold public opinion authority implies power for a specific purpose within specified limits. granted the authority to manage her estate jurisdiction applies to official power exercised within prescribed limits. the bureau having jurisdiction over parks control stresses the power to direct and restrain. you are responsible for the students under your control command implies the power to make arbitrary decisions and compel obedience. the army officer in command sway suggests the extent of exercised power or influence. the empire extended its sway over the region dominion stresses sovereign power or supreme authority. given dominion over all the animals

Examples of authority in a Sentence

The boss is not popular but his authority is unquestioned. She has an air of authority. Her southern accent lent authority to her performance. We reported the incident to hospital authorities. Local authorities are investigating the accident.
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Recent Examples on the Web Congressional Democrats have expressed hope that the Jan. 6 panel could be bolstered by a Biden administration Justice Department willing to follow through with potential criminal charges against those who defy the committee’s authority. Ken Thomas, WSJ, 16 Oct. 2021 The court ordered resentencing under a different law that gives the judge the authority to fashion a sentence below 10 years in prison., 16 Oct. 2021 Mask rules, vaccination mandates and business shutdowns have all landed in the courts during the COVID-19 outbreak, confronting judges with questions of science and government authority. Deepti Hajela, Anchorage Daily News, 16 Oct. 2021 The additional 12 months of rental assistance is made possible by a $91 million allocation of state emergency rental assistance funds from the Indiana housing authority to Marion County on August 18. Ko Lyn Cheang, The Indianapolis Star, 15 Oct. 2021 Trump invoked those powers, known as Title 42 authority, in March 2020 on grounds of preventing spread of the coronavirus. Elliot Spagat, ajc, 15 Oct. 2021 That authority has been a point of contention between the Biden administration and advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers. Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, 15 Oct. 2021 Trump invoked those powers, known as Title 42 authority, in March 2020 on grounds of preventing spread of the coronavirus. Elliot Spagat, Chron, 15 Oct. 2021 However, Los Angeles psychologist Shaunda Boyd said the authority many celebrities have on the public could affect some who are undecided on the vaccine — although Irving has never advised others to not take it. NBC News, 15 Oct. 2021

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

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4a

History and Etymology for authority

Middle English auctorite, from Anglo-French auctorité, from Latin auctoritat-, auctoritas opinion, decision, power, from auctor — see author entry 1

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Time Traveler for authority

Time Traveler

The first known use of authority was in the 13th century

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Dictionary Entries Near authority



authority figure

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Statistics for authority

Last Updated

19 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Authority.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for authority


au·​thor·​i·​ty | \ ə-ˈthȯr-ə-tē How to pronounce authority (audio) \
plural authorities

Kids Definition of authority

1 : power to exercise control
2 : a person looked to as an expert She's a leading authority on fitness.
3 : people having powers to make decisions and enforce rules and laws State authorities are investigating the disputed election.
4 : a fact or statement used to support a position What is your authority for this argument?


plural authorities

Legal Definition of authority

1 : an official decision of a court used especially as a precedent
2a : a power to act especially over others that derives from status, position, or office the authority of the president also : jurisdiction
b : the power to act that is officially or formally granted (as by statute, corporate bylaw, or court order) within the scope of the treasurer's authority police officers executing a warrant…are not required to “knock and announce” their authority and purposes before enteringNational Law Journal
c : power and capacity to act granted by someone in a position of control specifically : the power to act granted by a principal to his or her agent
actual authority
: the authority that a principal in reality has granted to an agent
actual express authority
: the actual authority of an agent specifically stated or written by the principal
actual implied authority
: the actual authority of an agent that the principal has not specified but has purposely or through negligence allowed the agent to believe has been granted
apparent authority
: the authority that a principal purposely or through negligence allows a third party to believe that the principal's agent has although such authority has not in reality been granted

called also authority by estoppel, ostensible authority

Note: A principal is bound by the acts of an agent acting with apparent authority.

express authority
: authority that is explicitly granted to an agent by a principal

called also expressed authority, stipulated authority

implied authority
: the authority to perform acts that are customary, necessary, and understood by an agent as authorized in performing acts for which the principal has given express authority
ostensible authority
: apparent authority in this entry
stipulated authority
: express authority in this entry
3 : a person in a position of power and especially a public office usually used in pl. the local authorities
4a : a government agency or corporation that administers a revenue-producing public enterprise the transit authority
b : a government agency or public office responsible for an area of regulation should apply for a permit to the permitting authority

More from Merriam-Webster on authority

Nglish: Translation of authority for Spanish Speakers

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


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