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[uh-thawr-i-tee, uh-thor-] /əˈθɔr ɪ ti, əˈθɒr-/
noun, plural authorities.
the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine.
a power or right delegated or given; authorization:
Who has the authority to grant permission?
a person or body of persons in whom authority is vested, as a governmental agency: The housing authority provides rental assistance payments to low-income residents.
The bridges and piers are built and maintained by the Port Authority.
Usually, authorities. persons having the legal power to make and enforce the law; government:
They finally persuaded the authorities that they were not involved in espionage.
an accepted source of information, advice, etc.:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the leading authority on vaccines and immunizations.
a quotation or citation from such a source.
an expert on a subject:
He is an authority on baseball.
persuasive force; conviction:
She spoke with authority.
a statute, court rule, or judicial decision that establishes a rule or principle of law; a ruling.
right to respect or acceptance of one's word, command, thought, etc.; commanding influence:
the authority of a parent; the authority of a great writer.
mastery in execution or performance, as of a work of art or literature or a piece of music.
a warrant for action; justification.
testimony; witness.
Origin of authority
1200-50; earlier auct(h)oritie < Latin auctōritās; replacing Middle English autorite < Old French < L. See author, -ity
Related forms
antiauthority, adjective
1. rule, power, sway. Authority, control, influence denote a power or right to direct the actions or thoughts of others. Authority is a power or right, usually because of rank or office, to issue commands and to punish for violations: to have authority over subordinates. Control is either power or influence applied to the complete and successful direction or manipulation of persons or things: to be in control of a project. Influence is a personal and unofficial power derived from deference of others to one's character, ability, or station; it may be exerted unconsciously or may operate through persuasion: to have influence over one's friends. 3. sovereign, arbiter. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for authority
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • On the same ground might the authority of all elective political and other posts be questioned.

    Freeland Theodor Hertzka
  • No man ventured to interfere with this lawful exercise of his authority.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • Timberellus is explained, a small whale, on the authority of Skene, Vocab.

  • From that moment on, no Jew dared to question the authority of Moses.

    Ancient Man Hendrik Willem van Loon
  • He was a great conservationist and an authority on the wild life of America.

British Dictionary definitions for authority


noun (pl) -ties
the power or right to control, judge, or prohibit the actions of others
(often pl) a person or group of people having this power, such as a government, police force, etc
a position that commands such a power or right (often in the phrase in authority)
such a power or right delegated, esp from one person to another; authorization: she has his authority
the ability to influence or control others: a man of authority
an expert or an authoritative written work in a particular field: he is an authority on Ming china
evidence or testimony: we have it on his authority that she is dead
confidence resulting from great expertise: the violinist lacked authority in his cadenza
(capital when part of a name) a public board or corporation exercising governmental authority in administering some enterprise: Independent Broadcasting Authority
  1. a judicial decision, statute, or rule of law that establishes a principle; precedent
  2. legal permission granted to a person to perform a specified act
Word Origin
C14: from French autorité, from Latin auctōritas, from auctorauthor
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for authority

early 13c., autorite "book or quotation that settles an argument," from Old French auctorité "authority, prestige, right, permission, dignity, gravity; the Scriptures" (12c.; Modern French autorité), from Latin auctoritatem (nominative auctoritas) "invention, advice, opinion, influence, command," from auctor "master, leader, author" (see author (n.)).

Usually spelled with a -c- in English till 16c., when it was dropped in imitation of the French. Meaning "power to enforce obedience" is from late 14c.; meaning "people in authority" is from 1610s. Authorities "those in charge, those with police powers" is recorded from mid-19c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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