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Borrowed from Ancient Greek αὐτᾰ́ρκειᾰ (autárkeia, independence, self-sufficiency, autarky; satisfaction with one’s resources, contentment) + English -y (suffix forming abstract nouns denoting a condition, quality, or state). Αὐτᾰ́ρκειᾰ (Autárkeia) is derived from αὐτάρκης (autárkēs, self-sufficient; content with what one has) + -ειᾰ (-eia, suffix forming feminine nouns); while αὐτάρκης (autárkēs) is from αὐτο- (auto-, prefix meaning ‘self’) + ᾰ̓ρκέω (arkéō, to be enough for, satisfy, suffice; (passive) to be satisfied with) (from Proto-Indo-European *h₂erk- (to guard, protect; to hold; to lock)) + -ης (-ēs, suffix forming third-declension adjectives).[1]



autarky (countable and uncountable, plural autarkies)

  1. (uncountable) A personal condition or state of self-reliance; independence. [from late 16th c.]
    • 1587, Zacharias Ursinus, “Of the Law of God, or, Of the Decalog and Ten Commandements. [The Eight Commandment.]”, in Henry Parry, transl., The Summe of Christian Religion: [], Oxford, Oxfordshire: [] Ioseph Barnes, and are to be solde [by T. Cooke] [], published 1589, →OCLC, paragraph 2, page 914:
      Autarchie, or contentednes, vvhich is a vertue vvhereby vve are contented vvith thoſe things vvhich vve preſently enioy, & haue iuſtly gotten, & meekly ſuffer poverty & other diſcommodities, neither are broken through vvant or penury, nor gape after other mens goods or ſubſtance, nor covet things needleſſe and vnneceſſary.
    • 1616 October 30 (Gregorian calendar), Samuel Ward, Balme from Gilead to Recouer Conscience. In a Sermon Preached at Pauls-Crosse, Octob. 20. 1616, London: [] T[homas] S[nodham] for Roger Iackson, and William Bladen, [], published 1617, →OCLC, page 18:
      Let vs rather turne our eyes, to behold and vvonder at the Diuine royalties and endovvments of it, it being in man the principall part of GODS Image, and that by vvhich Man reſembleth moſt the Autarchie and ſelf-ſufficiencie of GOD, vvhich I graunt is proper to his Infiniteneſſe, to be content and compleat vvithin it ſelfe: []
    • 1650, John Trapp, “A Commentary or Exposition upon the Proverbs of Solomon. [Chapter XIV.]”, in Solomonis Πανάρετος: Or, A Commentarie upon the Books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. [], London: [] T[homas] R[atcliffe] and E[dward] M[ottershead] for John Bellamie, [], →OCLC, page 147:
      But a good man ſhall be ſatisfied from himſelf] For he hath a ſpring vvithin his ovvn breaſt, he needs not ſharke abroad: he hath an autarkie, a ſelf-ſufficiency, 1 Tim[othy] 6.6.
    • 1662, “The Epistle to the Reader”, in The Merit and Honour of the Old English Clergy, Asserted by Laws and Customs Patriarchal, Mosaical, Evangelical, English, Ecclesiastick, Ethnick; and the Demerit of the New Clergy Discovered: [], London: [] R[ichard] Royston, [], →OCLC:
      [T]hus far the Author is a profeſſed Leveller in his practick judgement, paſt and preſent; a very Lazarus, that gathereth little; yet by Some other benediction, of Autarkie and Self-ſufficiency, a very Dives, He hath no lack.
    • 1866, Otto Pfleiderer, “Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher”, in Alexander Stewart, Allan Menzies, transl., The Philosophy of Religion on the Basis of Its History [], volume I, London, Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate, [], →OCLC, page 303:
      [T]he autonomy and autarky of the moral spirit, which looks for its happiness not to what is outside it or above it, but within, forming itself according to the law of its own being to a harmonious work of art, a microcosm, which finds in the outer world the object it reflects, as the outer world finds in it its copy.
    • 1943, T[homas] S[tearns] Eliot, “The Social Function of Poetry”, in On Poetry and Poets, New York, N.Y.: The Noonday Press, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, published September 1957 (1969 printing), →OCLC, page 13:
      A general autarky in culture simply will not work: the hope of perpetuating the culture of any country lies in communication with others.
  2. (economics, politics, specifically)
    1. (uncountable) (A policy of) national economic self-sufficiency, aimed at ending reliance on foreign imports to sustain a domestic economy.
      • 1598, Aristotle, “What is a Citie: And that It Consisteth by Nature: And that Man is Naturally a Sociable and Ciuill Creature”, in I. D. [i.e., John Dee], transl., Aristotles Politiques, or Discourses of Government. [], London: [] Adam Islip, →OCLC, book I, page 13:
        Selfe-ſufficiencie is the end.] To haue all things, and to vvant or deſire nothing, is Selfe-ſufficiencie, Ariſtot: Polit. Lib. 7. Cap. 5. This autarchie or ſelfe-ſufficiencie, is the end and the good contained in the forme of a Citie, and conſequently is the end of all other ſocieties.
      • 1938 October 17, Paul van Zeeland, Economics or Politics? A Lecture by Paul van Zeeland, formerly Prime Minister of Belgium [], Cambridge, Cambridgshire: University Press, published 1939, →OCLC, pages 23–24:
        If it were proved that these objects, that is to say prosperity, power, economic independence, could be attained by a policy of effective and complete autarky, there is no doubt that it would soon be carried into effect; [] But be that as it may, autarky does not permit the attainment of the objects which we have just mentioned. In reality, autarky is nowhere put into application.
      • 1991, Katō Eiichi, “The Age of the Great Voyages and Japan’s ‘National Seclusion’”, in National Committee of Japanese Historians, editor, Historical Studies in Japan (VII) 1983–1987: Japan at the XVIIth International Congress of Historical Sciences in Madrid, Tokyo: Yamakawa Shuppansha; Leiden: E[vert] J[an] Brill, →ISBN, page 48:
        [T]he concept of autarky is premised on the existence of economic relations required to fulfill needs for non-self-sufficient goods through interchange with outside areas. In fact, a self-sufficient society in the strict sense of the term has never existed anywhere in the world since the dawn of human history. If "closing of the ports" is a monopolistic system for control of foreign relations by state authority through which that state authority can regulate by force the influx of goods and economic activity that might threaten the maintenance of its class control, it can only really be called a policy for achieving the economic autarky of the state.
      • 2001, Rupert Woodfin, Judy Groves, illustrator, “The Purpose of the City State”, in Richard Appignanesi, editor, Introducing Aristotle (Introducing …), Thriplow, Cambridgeshire: Icon Books; [United States]: Totem Books, published 2002, →ISBN, page 140:
        So, although the origin of "political economy" is the household unit, this alone is not enough to meet all needs. The co-operative effort of large numbers of people is required to build irrigation systems, defences against enemies and so on. The village is a further natural development. A final development to meet greater needs is the polis itself, the city-state. The principle at work here is autarky (autos, "self" and arkeo, "suffice") or self-sufficiency.
      • 2009, Guillaume Faye, “Metapolitical Dictionary [Autarky of Great Spaces]”, in Michael O’Meara, transl., edited by John B. Morgan, Why We Fight: Manifesto of the European Resistance, [London]: Arktos Media, →ISBN, page 82:
        Autarky, as defended by the German school of Grossraumautarkie and today by the French Nobel prize recipient, Maurice Allais, is a response to globalist economics. The autarky of great spaces is no obsidional closure, but an exercise in contingency: only those things that can't be produced domestically are imported. [] At the same time, autarky resists the extremely fragile 'new economy', which comes with globalisation, limiting the participation of transnational firms and extra-European financial powers within the European economy.
    2. (countable) A self-sufficient country or region which is not dependent on international trade to function economically.
      • 1948 May 13, Robert Lecourt, “L’Aube (Organ of the Popular Republican Movement)”, in [anonymous], transl., News from France, number 8, New York, N.Y.: Information Division, French Embassy, →OCLC, page 8:
        Does this mean that the era of autarkies and of economic nationalism is ended?
      • 2013, Piotr Arak et al., “How to Measure the Impact of Public Policies on Human Development?”, in National Human Development Report: Poland 2012: Local and Regional Development, Warsaw: UNDP Project Office in Poland, United Nations Development Programme, →ISBN, section 4.2 (Welfare: Inputs and Outcomes), page 121:
        Local government entities are not autarkies, they don't lead fully independent financial policies, but still they have sufficient flexibility at the municipal level in their investments to be able to quantify and monitor their performance.

Usage notes[edit]

Although autarky is also spelled autarchy, it is not to be confused with autarchy (absolute power).

Alternative forms[edit]

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Related terms[edit]



  1. ^ Compare autarky, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2023; autarky, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

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