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From Ancient Greek αὐτοκέφαλος (autoképhalos), from αὐτο- (auto-, auto-) + κεφαλή (kephalḗ, head). Synchronically, auto- +‎ -cephalous.


  • IPA(key): /ɔːtə(ʊ)ˈsɛfələs/


autocephalous (not generally comparable, comparative more autocephalous, superlative most autocephalous)

  1. (Christianity, of a church or bishop, not comparable) Self-governing: independent of other episcopal jurisdiction (to a greater degree than an autonomous church).
  2. (comparable) Independent; self-directed
    Antonym: heterocephalous
    • 1970, Ronald C. Newton, “On “Functional Groups,” “Fragmentation,” and “Pluralism” in Spanish American Political Society”, in Hispanic American Historical Review, DOI:10.1215/00182168-50.1.1:
      This is the Weberian continuum which stretches between the poles of “autocephalous” (self-organized and managing) and “heterocephalous” (organized and managed by others) occupations. [] In the more autocephalous occupations—the professions; the arts; independent accountants, draftsmen, and the like; independent small and medium businessmen in merchandising, manufacturing, artisanry, and the service trades—effective organization is less feasible.

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