Alternative formsEdit


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) The power to enforce rules or give orders.
    I have the authority to penalise the staff in my department, but not the authority to sack them.
    She lost all her respect and authority after turning up drunk to 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, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood Chapter V
      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 to enforce rules; government 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.
    • 1997, Carlin, George, “WELL, YA GOTTA LIVE SOMEPLACE”, in Brain Droppings[1], New York: Hyperion Books, →ISBN, LCCN 96-52373, OCLC 36084460, OL 26335012M, page 16:
      Of course, living in the South was never an option—the main problem being they have too much respect for authority; they're soldier-sniffers and cop lovers.
    • 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.
  3. (countable) A source of reliable 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. A government-owned agency that runs a revenue-generating activity.
    New York Port Authority

Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

See alsoEdit


  • authority at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • authority in Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary, edited by The Keywords Project, Colin MacCabe, Holly Yanacek, 2018.
  • authority” in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911.