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Alternative formsEdit


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.



sovereign (comparative more sovereign, superlative most sovereign)

  1. Exercising power of rule.
    sovereign nation
  2. Exceptional in quality.
    Her voice was her sovereign talent.
  3. (now rare, pharmacology) Extremely potent or effective (of a medicine, remedy etc.).
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Qveene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for VVilliam Ponsonbie, OCLC 960102938, book 3, canto 5:
      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.
    • 1681, John Dryden, The Spanish Fryar: Or, the Double Discovery. [], London: [] Richard Tonson and Jacob Tonson, [], OCLC 6484883, (please specify the page number):
      a sovereign remedy
    • 1692–1717, Robert South, Twelve Sermons Preached upon Several Occasions, volume (please specify |volume=I to VI), 6th edition, London: [] J[ames] Bettenham, for Jonah Bowyer, [], published 1727, OCLC 21766567:
      Such a sovereign influence has this passion upon the regulation of the lives and actions of men.
  4. Having supreme, ultimate power.
    Gentlemen, may I introduce the Sovereign, Her Royal Highness, and Most Imperial Majesty, Empress Elizabeth of Vicron.
    • 1972, Brian Potter, Dennis Lambert (lyrics and music), “Keeper of the Castle”, performed by The Four Tops:
      You're the keeper of the castle
      So be a father to your children
      The provider of all their daily needs
      Like a sovereign Lord protector
      Be their destiny's director
      And they'll do well to follow where you lead.
  5. Princely; royal.
  6. Predominant; greatest; utmost; paramount.


Derived termsEdit



sovereign (plural sovereigns)

A sovereign
  1. A monarch; the ruler of a country.
    • 1594, William Shakespeare, Lucrece (First Quarto)‎[1], London: [] 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. [], London: [] [Samuel Simmons], [], OCLC 228722708; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], 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. []
    • 1785, Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
      No question is to be made but that the bed of the Missisippi[sic] belongs to the sovereign, that is, to the nation.
  2. One who is not a subject to a ruler or nation.
    1. Short for sovereign citizen.
  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 former Australian gold coin, minted from 1855–1931, of one pound value.
  5. A very large champagne bottle with the capacity of about 25 liters, equivalent to 33+13 standard bottles.
  6. Any butterfly of the tribe Nymphalini, or genus Basilarchia, as the ursula and the viceroy.
  7. (UK, 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


  • Irish: sabhran
  • Russian: соверен (soveren)
  • Scottish Gaelic: sòbharan
  • Welsh: sofren


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.