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authority definition


This page has 6 definitions of authority in English. Authority is a noun. Examples of how to use authority in a sentence are shown. Also define these 0 related words and terms: .


Alternative forms


From Middle English auctorite, autorite (authority, book or quotation that settles an argument), from Old French auctorité, from Latin stem of auctōritās (invention, advice, opinion, influence, command), from auctor (master, leader, author). For the presence of the h, compare the etymology of author.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ɔːˈθɒɹəti/, /ɔːˈθɒɹɪti/
  • (US) IPA(key): /əˈθɔɹəti/, /əˈθɑɹəti/
  • (file)
  • (obsolete) IPA(key): /ɒːˈtɒɹɪti/
  • Hyphenation: au‧thor‧i‧ty
  • Rhymes: -ɒɹɪti


authority (countable and uncountable, plural authorities)

  1. (uncountable) Power or right to make or enforce rules or give orders; or a position having such power or right.
    Synonyms: command, rulership, sovereignty
    I have the authority to penalise the staff in my department, but not the authority to sack them.
    Vigilantes may have the power to nab criminals, but they lack the authority.
    She lost all respect and authority after turning up drunk at the meeting.
    Respect my authority!
    • 1777, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, The School for Scandal, II.i:
      SIR PETER. Very well! ma'am very well! so a husband is to have no influence, no authority?
      LADY TEAZLE. Authority! no, to be sure—if you wanted authority over me, you should have adopted me and not married me[:] I am sure you were old enough.
    • 1883, Howard Pyle, chapter V, in The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood [], New York, N.Y.: [] Charles Scribner’s Sons [], →OCLC:
      But in the meantime Robin Hood and his band lived quietly in Sherwood Forest, without showing their faces abroad, for Robin knew that it would not be wise for him to be seen in the neighborhood of Nottingham, those in authority being very wroth with him.
  2. (plural) Persons, regarded collectively, who occupy official positions of power; police or law enforcement.
    Authorities say the suspect fled on foot.
    • 1927, F. E. Penny, chapter 4, in Pulling the Strings:
      The case was that of a murder. It had an element of mystery about it, however, which was puzzling the authorities. A turban and loincloth soaked in blood had been found; also a staff.
    • 2013 August 10, “Legal highs: A new prescription”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8848:
      No sooner has a [synthetic] drug been blacklisted than chemists adjust their recipe and start churning out a subtly different one. These “legal highs” are sold for the few months it takes the authorities to identify and ban them, and then the cycle begins again.
    • 2023 February 12, Daniel E. Slotnik, Amelia Nierenberg, “Your Monday Briefing: U.S. Destroys U.F.O.s”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 13 February 2023, Briefing:
      In China, authorities said they might soon shoot down an unidentified flying object over waters near the northern city of Rizhao, The South China Morning Post reported.
  3. (countable) A reliable, definitive source of information on a subject.
    the world's foremost authority on orangutans
    My cheap dictionary is not the authority on word derivations.
    • 1930 September 18, Albert Einstein, as quoted in Albert Einstein: Creator and Rebel (1988) by Banesh Hoffman
      To punish me for my contempt of authority, Fate has made me an authority myself.
  4. (uncountable) Status as a trustworthy source of information, reputation for mastery or expertise; or claim to such status or reputation.
    Synonyms: cred, gravitas
    Some thinkers regard appealing to authority as a logical fallacy; others regard it as a legitimate form of argument.
  5. (uncountable) Official permission; authorisation to act in some capacity on behalf of a ruling entity.
    • 1964 July, “XP64: New Standard Carriage Project”, in Modern Railways, page 2:
      Authority to construct eight carriages, to test the new design in public service, had already been given; but of course complete working drawings had first to be prepared.
  6. (countable) A government-owned agency that runs a revenue-generating activity for public benefit.
    New York Port Authority
    Chicago Transit Authority

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