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From Middle English sovereyn, from Old French soverain (whence also modern French souverain), from Vulgar Latin *superānus (compare Italian sovrano, Spanish soberano) from Latin super (above). Spelling influenced by folk-etymology association with reign. Doublet of soprano, from the same Latin root via Italian. See also suzerain, foreign.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈsɒv.ɹɪn/
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sovereign (comparative more sovereign, superlative most sovereign)

  1. Exercising power of rule.
    sovereign nation
  2. Exceptional in quality.
  3. (now rare) Extremely potent or effective (of a medicine, remedy etc.).
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, III.v:
      The soueraigne weede betwixt two marbles plaine / She pownded small, and did in peeces bruze, / And then atweene her lilly handes twaine, / Into his wound the iuyce thereof did scruze []
    • 1876, John Davies, “[Tobacco.]”, in Alexander B[alloch] Grosart, editor, The Complete Poems of Sir John Davies. Edited, with Memorial-Introduction and Notes, by the Rev. Alexander B. Grosart. In Two Volumes (Early English Poets), volume II, London: Chatto and Windus, Piccadilly, OCLC 752538909, page 226:
      Homer of Moly and Nepenthe singes: / Moly, the gods most soveraigne hearbe divine. / Nepenth Hellen's drink, which gladnes brings,— / Hart's greife repells, and doth ye witts refine.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Dryden
      a sovereign remedy
    • (Can we date this quote?) South
      Such a sovereign influence has this passion upon the regulation of the lives and actions of men.
  4. Having supreme, ultimate power.
  5. Princely; royal.
  6. Predominant; greatest; utmost; paramount.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Hooker
      We acknowledge him [God] our sovereign good.


Derived termsEdit



sovereign (plural sovereigns)

A sovereign
  1. A monarch; the ruler of a country.
    • 1594, William Shakespeare, Lvcrece (First Quarto)‎[1], London: Printed by Richard Field, for Iohn Harrison, [], OCLC 236076664:
      The petty ſtreames that paie a dailie det / To their ſalt ſoveraigne with their freſh fals haſt, / Adde to his flowe, but alter not his taſt.
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book I”, in Paradise Lost. A Poem Written in Ten Books, London: Printed [by Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker [] [a]nd by Robert Boulter [] [a]nd Matthias Walker, [], OCLC 228722708; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: The Text Exactly Reproduced from the First Edition of 1667: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, OCLC 230729554, lines 242-249:
      Is this the Region, this the Soil, the Clime, / Said then the lost Archangel, this the seat / That we must change for Heaven?, this mournful gloom / For that celestial light? Be it so, since hee / Who now is Sovran can dispose and bid / What shall be right : fardest from him is best / Whom reason hath equald, force hath made supream / Above his equals. []
    • Jefferson
      No question is to be made but that the bed of the Mississippi belongs to the sovereign, that is, to the nation.
  2. One who is not a subject to a ruler or nation.
  3. A gold coin of the United Kingdom, with a nominal value of one pound sterling but in practice used as a bullion coin.
  4. A very large champagne bottle with the capacity of about 25 liters, equivalent to 33⅓ standard bottles.
  5. Any butterfly of the tribe Nymphalini, or genus Basilarchia, as the ursula and the viceroy.
  6. (Britain, slang) A large, garish ring; a sovereign ring.
    • 2004, December 11, "Birkenhead, Merseyside" BBC Voices recording (0:06:52)
      No, someone who wears loads of sovereigns as well loads of gold and has uh a curly perm and peroxide blonde hair, orange, orange sunbed skin and a fringe like this blow-dried to death, that’s a ‘scally’.
    • 2011 July 1, Caroline Davies, “Harrods 'ladies' code' drives out sales assistant”, in The Guardian[2]:
      No visible tattoos, sovereigns, mismatched jewellery, scrunchies, large clips or hoop earrings.


Derived termsEdit


See alsoEdit


sovereign (third-person singular simple present sovereigns, present participle sovereigning, simple past and past participle sovereigned)

  1. (transitive) To rule over as a sovereign.