Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The power to enforce laws, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge.
  • n. One that is invested with this power, especially a government or body of government officials: land titles issued by the civil authority.
  • n. Power assigned to another; authorization: Deputies were given authority to make arrests.
  • n. A public agency or corporation with administrative powers in a specified field: a city transit authority.
  • n. An accepted source of expert information or advice: a noted authority on birds; a reference book often cited as an authority.
  • n. A quotation or citation from such a source: biblical authorities for a moral argument.
  • n. Justification; grounds: On what authority do you make such a claim?
  • n. A conclusive statement or decision that may be taken as a guide or precedent.
  • n. Power to influence or persuade resulting from knowledge or experience: political observers who acquire authority with age.
  • n. Confidence derived from experience or practice; firm self-assurance: played the sonata with authority.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The power to enforce rules or give orders.
  • n. Persons in command; specifically, government.
  • n. A person accepted as a source of reliable information on a subject.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Legal or rightful power; a right to command or to act; power exercised buy a person in virtue of his office or trust; dominion; jurisdiction; authorization
  • n. Government; the persons or the body exercising power or command
  • n. The power derived from opinion, respect, or esteem; influence of character, office, or station, or mental or moral superiority, and the like; claim to be believed or obeyed
  • n. That which, or one who, is claimed or appealed to in support of opinions, actions, measures, etc.
  • n. Testimony; witness.
  • n. A precedent; a decision of a court, an official declaration, or an opinion, saying, or statement worthy to be taken as a precedent.
  • n. A book containing such a statement or opinion, or the author of the book.
  • n. Justification; warrant.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Power or admitted right to command or to act, whether original or delegated: as, the authority of a prince over subjects and of parents over children; the authority of an agent to act for his principal.
  • n. The power derived from opinion, respect, or long-established reputation; influence conferred by character, office, station, mental superiority, or the like; credit: as, the authority of age or example; the authority of Aristotle.
  • n. Power in a general sense.
  • n. A person or persons, or a body, exercising power or command: generally in the plural: as, the civil and military authorities. The outward marks of authority; especially, the expression of authority in the countenance.
  • n. That to which or one to whom an appeal or reference may be made in support of any opinion, action, or course of conduct.
  • n. Weight of testimony; credibility: as, a historian of no authority; “authority of the Scriptures,”
  • n. One who possesses adequate knowledge of a subject, and whose opinions or statements may be relied on; an expert; a standard author or his writings: as, an authority in matters pertaining to geology.
  • n. In law, a precedent; a judicial decision; an official declaration or opinion, such as ought to be followed in similar cases.
  • n. Justification; countenance; warrant.
  • n. Synonyms Rule, dominion, government; warrant, permission, authorization.
  • n. Influence, Authority, Ascendancy, Control, Sway, Domination, may all apply to persons or things, but seem primarily to belong to persons. Influence and authority imply moral power; the others may do so, and are considered to do so here. The words are arranged in the order of their strength. Influence may be small; it is wholly apart from the power of office; the word expresses the extent to which one affects the conduct or character of others simply by their deference to him on account of his station, wealth, ability, character, etc. Authority is, in this connection, influence amounting to a recognized right to command: as, the authority of age, wisdom, experience. It is presumably rightful, while the other words often express undue or unwholesome weight or power. Ascendancy is overmastering influence, supremacy by influence; the word is often used in a bad sense: as, the ascendancy of cunning over simplicity. Control is complete or successful and continued authority: as, his control over the convicts was maintained without resort to force. Sway is, by its derivation, control over that which may be viewed as a weighty or massive object; hence, a solid or powerful or controlling influence. Domination, as it may be an absolute and tyrannical rule, may also be an absolute and tyrannical influence or ascendancy: as, he was really under the domination of those whom he thought his servants or tools.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. freedom from doubt; belief in yourself and your abilities
  • n. an authoritative written work
  • n. official permission or approval
  • n. an administrative unit of government
  • n. the power or right to give orders or make decisions
  • n. an expert whose views are taken as definitive
  • n. (usually plural) persons who exercise (administrative) control over others

Etymologies

Middle English auctorite, from Old French autorite, from Latin auctōritās, auctōritāt-, from auctor, creator; see author.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Middle English autorite ("book or quotation that settles an argument"), from Old French auctorité, from Latin stem of auctoritas ("invention, advice, opinion, influence, command"), from auctor ("master, leader, author") (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • "Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth." -- Albert Einstein

    May 30, 2008