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Alternative forms[edit]


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) Extremely potent or effective (of a medicine, remedy etc.).
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, III.v:
      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.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Dryden
      a sovereign remedy
    • (Can we date this quote?) South
      Such a sovereign influence has this passion upon the regulation of the lives and actions of men.
  4. Having supreme, ultimate power.
  5. Princely; royal.
  6. Predominant; greatest; utmost; paramount.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Hooker
      We acknowledge him [God] our sovereign good.


Derived terms[edit]



sovereign (plural sovereigns)

A sovereign
  1. A monarch; the ruler of a country.
    • 1594, William Shakespeare, Lvcrece (First Quarto)‎[1], London: Printed by 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. A Poem Written in Ten Books, London: Printed [by Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker [] [a]nd by Robert Boulter [] [a]nd Matthias Walker, [], OCLC 228722708; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: The Text Exactly Reproduced from the First Edition of 1667: [], 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. []
    • (Can we date this quote by Jefferson and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      No question is to be made but that the bed of the Mississippi belongs to the sovereign, that is, to the nation.
  2. One who is not a subject to a ruler or nation.
  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 very large champagne bottle with the capacity of about 25 liters, equivalent to 33⅓ standard bottles.
  5. Any butterfly of the tribe Nymphalini, or genus Basilarchia, as the ursula and the viceroy.
  6. (Britain, 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 terms[edit]


See also[edit]


sovereign (third-person singular simple present sovereigns, present participle sovereigning, simple past and past participle sovereigned)

  1. (transitive) To rule over as a sovereign.