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PIE word

From Late Middle English sovereynte, souvereynte [and other forms],[1] from Anglo-Norman sovereyneté, soverentee, and Old French soveraineté, souveraineté (modern French souveraineté),[2] from soverain + -té (suffix forming nouns, often denoting a property or quality). Soverain is derived from Vulgar Latin *superānus (chief; sovereign), from Latin super (above; on top of) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *upér (above, over)) + -ānus (suffix meaning ‘of or pertaining to’, usually denoting a relationship of origin, position, or possession)). The English word is analysable as sovereign +‎ -ty (suffix forming abstract nouns from adjectives).



sovereignty (countable and uncountable, plural sovereignties)

  1. (chiefly uncountable) The quality or state of being sovereign.
    Antonym: nonsovereignty
    1. Of a ruler (especially a monarch): supreme authority or dominion over something.
      • 1579, E. K., “[Aprill. Aegloga Quarta.] Glosse.”, in Immeritô [pseudonym; Edmund Spenser], The Shepheardes Calender: [], London: [] Hugh Singleton, [], →OCLC; reprinted as H[einrich] Oskar Sommer, editor, The Shepheardes Calender [], London: John C. Nimmo, [], 1890, →OCLC, folio 15, verso:
        [] Zephyrus the VVeſterne vvind being in loue vvith her [Chloris], and coueting her to vvyfe, gaue her for a dovvrie, the chiefedome and ſoueraigntye of al flovvers and greene herbes, grovving on earth.
        The extensive commentaries and glosses included with the work are ascribed to an “E. K.”, who is sometimes assumed to be an alias of Spenser himself.
      • 1590, Edmund Spenser, “Book II, Canto X”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC, stanza 48, page 338:
        [] Androgeus, falſe to natiue ſoyle, / And enuious of Vncles ſoueraintie, / Betrayd his countrey vnto forreine ſpoyle: []
      • 1592, [John Eliot?], The Survay or Topographical Description of France: [], London: [] Iohn Wolfe, [], →OCLC, page 2:
        The King of Nauarre hath alſo tvvo parliaments which ſerue for the countries which he holdeth in ſoueraigntie.
      • c. 1596 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Life and Death of King Iohn”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act II, scene ii], page 8, column 2:
        But Fortune, oh, / She is corrupted, chang'd, and vvonne from thee, / Sh'adulterates hourely vvith thine Vnckle Iohn, / And vvith her golden hand hath pluckt on France / To tread dovvne faire reſpect of Soueraigntie, / And made his Maieſtie the bavvd to theirs.
      • 1697, Virgil, “The Second Book of the Georgics”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, page 81, lines 397–399:
        [] Joves ovvn Tree, / That holds the VVoods in avvful Sov'raignty, / Requires a depth of Lodging in the Ground; []
      • 1727, [Daniel Defoe], “How Wisdom and Learning Advanc’d Men in the First Ages to Royalty and Government, and How Many of the Magicians were Made Kings on that Account; as Zoroaster, Cadmus, and Many Others”, in A System of Magick; or, A History of the Black Art. [], London: [] J. Roberts [], →OCLC, page 39:
        Yet this Diminutive Rank of Soveraignty remain’d many Ages in the VVorld; and vve find, not only in Abraham’s Time, vvhen the five Cities of the Lake or Valley, vvhere Sodom ſtood, had five Kings over them; [] but even at the coming of the Iſraelites into Canaan, almoſt every City had its King; []
      • 1821 (date written), Percy B[ysshe] Shelley, Hellas: A Lyrical Drama, London: Charles and James Ollier [], published 1822, →OCLC, page 10:
        The sage, in truth, by [] / Deep contemplation, and unwearied study, / In years outstretch'd beyond the date of man, / May have attained to sovereignty and science / Over those strong and secret things and thoughts / Which others fear and know not.
      • 1860, R[alph] W[aldo] Emerson, “Essay II. Power.”, in The Conduct of Life, Boston, Mass.: Ticknor and Fields, →OCLC, page 53:
        As long as our people quote English standards, they will miss the sovereignty of power; []
      • 2016 February 8, Andy Greenberg, “It’s Been 20 Years Since This Man Declared Cyberspace Independence”, in Wired[1], San Francisco, C.A.: Condé Nast Publications, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2023-08-17:
        "The main thing I was declaring was that cyberspace is naturally immune to sovereignty and always would be," Barlow, now 68, said in an interview over the weekend with WIRED. "I believed that was true then, and I believe it's true now."
    2. (by extension) Of a nation or other polity: the state of being able to control resources, make laws independently, and otherwise govern itself without the coercion or concurrence of other polities.
      Synonyms: autarchy, independence, nationality, nationhood
      Coordinate terms: autonomy, semiautonomy
      • 1791, Thomas Paine, Rights of Man: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke’s Attack on the French Revolution, London: [] J. S. Jordan, [], →OCLC, page 157:
        Sovereignty, as a matter of right, appertains to the Nation only, and not to any individual; and a Nation has at all times an inherent indefeaſible right to aboliſh any form of Government it finds inconvenient, and eſtabliſh ſuch as accords vvith its intereſt, diſpoſition, and happineſs.
      • 1861, John Stuart Mill, “That the Ideally Best Form of Government is Representative Government”, in Considerations on Representative Government, London: Parker, Son, and Bourn, [], →OCLC, page 53:
        There is no difficulty is showing that the ideally best form of government is that in which the sovereignty, or supreme controlling power in the last resort, is vested in the entire aggregate of the community; every citizen not only having a voice in the exercise of that ultimate sovereignty, but being, at least occasionally, called on to take an actual part in the government, by the personal discharge of some public function, local or general.
      • 1981, Anouar Abdel-Malek, “Sociology of National Development: Problems of Conceptualisation”, in Nation and Revolution (Social Dialectics; 2), Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, →ISBN, part I (The Nation as Crucible), page 13:
        On the other hand, the nationalitarian phenomenon is one in which 'the struggle against the imperialist powers of occupation has as its object, beyond the clearing of the national territory, the independence and sovereignty of the national State, uprooting in depth the positions of the ex-colonial power – the reconquest of the power of decision in all domains of national life, the prelude to that reconquest of identity which is at the heart of the renaissance undertaken on the basis of fundamental national demands, and ceaselessly contested, by every means available, on every level, and notably on the internal level'.
      • 2019 March 7, Manuel Valls, “What have Britain and Catalonia got in common? Delusions of independence”, in Katharine Viner, editor, The Guardian[2], London: Guardian News & Media, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2023-09-29:
        In today's interconnected economies and societies, a formal independence is the opposite of gaining real sovereignty and control. This is because the excluded party would be absent from the table when decisions are made, unable to participate as choices are taken that, sooner or later, will affect them.
    3. (by extension) Of a person: the liberty to decide one's actions and thoughts.
    4. Pre-eminent or superior excellence; also, superior ability to achieve something; mastery.
      • c. 1587–1588, [Christopher Marlowe], Tamburlaine the Great. [] The First Part [], 2nd edition, part 1, London: [] [R. Robinson for] Richard Iones, [], published 1592, →OCLC; reprinted as Tamburlaine the Great (A Scolar Press Facsimile), Menston, Yorkshire, London: Scolar Press, 1973, →ISBN, Act II, scene i, signature B2, recto:
        [His head,] Wherein by curious ſoueraigntie of Art, / Are fixt his piercing inſtruments of ſight: / Whose fiery circles beare encompaſſed / A heauen of heauenly bodies in their Spheares: []
      • c. 1595–1596 (date written), W. Shakespere [i.e., William Shakespeare], A Pleasant Conceited Comedie Called, Loues Labors Lost. [] (First Quarto), London: [] W[illiam] W[hite] for Cut[h]bert Burby, published 1598, →OCLC; republished as Shakspere’s Loves Labours Lost (Shakspere-Quarto Facsimiles; no. 5), London: W[illiam] Griggs, [], [1880], →OCLC, [Act IV, scene iii], signature F, verso, lines 234–237:
        Of all complexions the culd ſoueraigntie, / Do meete as at a faire in her faire cheeke, / VVhere ſeuerall vvorthies make one dignitie, / VVhere nothing vvantes, that vvant itſelfe doth ſeeke.
      • c. 1604–1605 (date written), William Shakespeare, “All’s Well, that Ends Well”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene iii], page 234, column 2:
        You knovv my Father left me ſome preſcriptions / Of rare and prou'd effects, ſuch as his reading / And manifeſt experience, had collected / For generall ſoueraigntie: and that he vvil'd me / In heedfull'ſt reſeruation to beſtovv them, / As notes, vvhose faculties incluſiue vvere, / More then they vvere in note: []
      • 1610, John Guillim, “Sect[ion] II. Chap[ter] III.”, in A Display of Heraldrie: [], London: [] William Hall for Raphe Mab, published 1611, →OCLC, page 43:
        [Ordinaries in heraldry] are alſo called, moſt vvorthy partitions, in reſpect that albeit the Field be charged in diuers parts thereof, vvhether vvith things of one or of diuers kindes, yet is euery of them as effectuall as if it vvere onely one, by the Soueraigntie of theſe partitions being interpoſed betvveene them.
  2. (countable) A territory under the rule of a sovereign; an independent or self-governing nation or other polity.
    • 1656, William Sanderson, “The Reign and Death of King James, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, the First, &c.”, in A Compleat History of the Lives and Reigns of Mary Queen of Scotland, and of Her Son and Successor, James the Sixth, King of Scotland; and (after Queen Elizabeth) King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, the First, (of Ever Blessed Memory.) [], London: [] Humphrey Moseley, Richard Tomlins, and George Sawbridge, [], →OCLC, page 405:
      Theſe Expences [] vvould not for the preſent, Rebus ſic ſtantibus [with things thus standing], become this King, vvhoſe fame and honour (as all other Sovereignties, ſo his in particular) ſtood more upon Reputation than profit; []
    • 1681, Henry More, “Vision III. The Vision of the Ram and He-goat, Betokening the Kings of Media and Persia, and the Kings of Græcia, Chap. 8.”, in A Plain and Continued Exposition of the Several Prophecies or Divine Visions of the Prophet Daniel, which have or may Concern the People of God, whether Jew or Christian; [], London: [] M[iles] F[lesher] for Walter Kettilby, [], →OCLC, paragraph 8, page 69:
      VVhence it is clear as Noon-day that all the Horns here mentioned ſignifying particular Sovereignties, there being in the mean time but one Beaſt mentioned, vvhich neceſſarily implies but one Empire, State, or Kingdom, that all theſe particular Sovereignties muſt be the Sovereignties of one and the ſame State or Empire vvhich the Goat ſignified, vvhich is the Greek Empire.
      Interpreting the vision of the prophet Daniel in Daniel 8:8 (King James Version): “Therefore the hee goate waxed very great, and when he was ſtrong, the great horne was broken: and for it came vp foure notable ones, toward the foure windes of heauen.”
    • [1732], J[oseph] Morgan, “Introduction”, in A Compleat History of the Present Seat of War in Africa, between the Spaniards and Algerines; [], London: [] W[illiam] Mears, []; and J. Stone, [], →OCLC, page 3:
      [T]his Diſunion at length occaſioned the total Ruin of them all; the Chriſtians being thereby enabled alſo to erect diverſe ſmall Sovereignties, vvith Regal Titles.
    • 2015 March 29, Eric Foner, “Why Reconstruction Matters”, in The New York Times[3], New York, N.Y.: The New York Times Company, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2023-11-17:
      Over Johnson's veto, Congress enacted one of the most important laws in American history, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, still on the books today. It affirmed the citizenship of everyone born in the United States, regardless of race (except Indians, still considered members of tribal sovereignties).

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  1. ^ sovereignty, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  2. ^ sovereignty, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, July 2023.

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