Definition of autonomy in English:



  • 1[mass noun] The right or condition of self-government.

    ‘between the First and Second World Wars, Canada gained greater autonomy from Britain’
    • ‘Prior to 1917 the Bolsheviks had opposed the concept of federalism, preferring regional autonomy within a unitary state.’
    • ‘It first took up arms in 1949 to demand autonomy from the central government of the time.’
    • ‘Peaceful protests were from the beginning dealt with violently, fuelling local sympathies for autonomy or independence.’
    • ‘For their part, the latter have signalled their readiness to drop their previous threat to split off from the rest of the country and abandon plans for a referendum on autonomy.’
    • ‘A relatively small group of nationalists demand outright independence for the island while others prefer autonomy within the French Republic.’
    • ‘It first took up arms in 1949 to demand autonomy from the military government.’
    • ‘For its part, the government has proposed constitutional changes to give limited autonomy to the north and east.’
    • ‘A former province of a state is being prepared for substantial autonomy and self-government.’
    • ‘Both parties combine calls for greater regional autonomy with demands for a larger share of tax revenues for themselves.’
    • ‘This allowed for greater autonomy within the boundaries of the Federal Republic.’
    • ‘It is demanding autonomy for the rich eastern lowland region where the natural gas reserves are concentrated.’
    • ‘Its aim was to suspend the moves towards separation for three months, whilst negotiating greater autonomy within a federal structure.’
    • ‘The central government has said it is prepared to give the province autonomy within a federal system.’
    • ‘To optimists among them, at the very least the war seems to offer an opportunity for enhanced autonomy within a federal state.’
    • ‘The political dilemma of balancing a competition-focused business with autonomy for nations and regions is obvious.’
    1. 1.1[count noun]A self-governing country or region.
      ‘the national autonomies of the Russian Republic’
      • ‘New accommodations for mixed federalisms, regional autonomies, and neo-nationalisms will be equally needed.’
      • ‘Metropolitan authorities could no longer tolerate laxity of administration or tacit autonomies.’
      • ‘City autonomies themselves, at least in the kingdom of Italy, were products of the same process.’
      • ‘There are also fears that the various newly created autonomies will fight over maritime boundaries and resources such as fish.’
      • ‘To accelerate the transition we'll promote ‘shadow laws' that protect our autonomies from state or market intrusions and slowly reduce the political centre to nothing but administrative functions.’
      • ‘Their ultimate objective may be securing some form of statehood for them as autonomies or federation components.’
      • ‘And so Calanthe remained a partial autonomy; half self-governed and half controlled by the fear of the Liberators.’
      • ‘Similar interests in Europe developed courts, parliaments, financial institutions and urban autonomies, often in violent confrontation with monarchy.’
      • ‘The aspirations for change were never clear-cut, and from the start they also echoed forms of opposition to absolutism that had very different roots in the defence of older corporate or regional autonomies.’
    2. 1.2Freedom from external control or influence; independence.
      ‘the courts enjoy a considerable degree of autonomy’
      ‘economic autonomy is still a long way off for many women’
      • ‘Instead it demands a considerable degree of autonomy and nurtures individualism.’
      • ‘Agencies operate with a good deal of autonomy, within the overall framework set by the transgovernmental network of interior and justice ministries.’
      • ‘Subsequently, the army enjoyed an increasing amount of autonomy from political control, and even from the military establishment.’
      • ‘The government formally granted universities autonomy over academic and financial affairs.’
      • ‘There is a strong association between the principles of autonomy and academic freedom and the idea of a university.’
      • ‘Even after devolution, local government had little autonomy.’
      • ‘For many faculty members, what is at issue is not the money, but quality control and professional autonomy.’
      • ‘I went on to talk about the need for community autonomy from Government intervention.’
      • ‘A major task of adolescence is autonomy, and parental controls tend to fall away rapidly during this period.’
      • ‘We might wish to have individual autonomy and to be independent of the world we find ourselves in, but this is not in any way realistic.’
      • ‘Perhaps she was talking about women being self-sufficient, with jobs and resources, freedom and autonomy.’
      • ‘Loss of autonomy and control may cause the young child a great deal of anxiety.’
      • ‘Respect for personal autonomy and individual human rights was the common thread joining all issues presented at the World Social Forum.’
      • ‘There is a price to be paid for foreign capital, in terms of loss of national economic autonomy, freedom of decision, and sovereignty.’
      • ‘The biographer would enjoy no autonomy or independence whatsoever.’
      • ‘How can physicians best promote the autonomy of minors while respecting parental autonomy?’
      • ‘Personal freedom, individual autonomy and maximum access to information have long been seen as desirable ends in themselves.’
      • ‘Unlike subjects of experiments or clinical trials, they retain a great deal of personal autonomy as well as control over the research itself.’
      • ‘Emphasize the patient's autonomy and control over the situation.’
      • ‘But many women today are choosing not to marry at all, opting for autonomy and to retain control over their own children.’
      • ‘And do we want to start down that slippery slope to losing control of our hard-won autonomy?’
      • ‘The French government had planned to give more autonomy to universities, giving them freedom to increase tuition fees as well as opening the doors to big business.’
      • ‘Patients scheduled to undergo surgical procedures often say that they sense a loss of control and autonomy.’
      self-government, independence, self-rule, home rule, sovereignty, self-determination, freedom, autarchy
      self-sufficiency, individualism
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3(in Kantian moral philosophy) the capacity of an agent to act in accordance with objective morality rather than under the influence of desires.
      • ‘This means that their criterion for resolving doubts, their criterion of private perfection, is autonomy rather than affiliation to a power other than themselves.’
      • ‘Actions that are consistent with the dignity and autonomy of moral agents are intrinsically good.’
      • ‘All virtue is contained in autonomy, all vice in its absence, and all morality is summarized in the imperatives that guide the will.’
      • ‘According to this incompatibilist conception of autonomy, autonomy is incompatible with determinism.’
      • ‘Rather than locating human dignity in God or nature, Kant exalted man's autonomy - his ability to make and obey the moral law.’
      • ‘Immanuel Kant emphasized that morality was inseparable from true autonomy: the autonomous human agent chose to submit himself to the moral law.’
      • ‘This section began with a question about the relations among Kantian views of autonomy, rationality, and agential separateness.’
      • ‘It is therefore consonant with, indeed an expression of, the personal autonomy that morality should protect and nurture.’
      • ‘Yes, in Kantian terms, respect for autonomy is closely related to the categorical imperative of treating people as ends and not means.’


Early 17th century: from Greek autonomia, from autonomos having its own laws, from autos self + nomos law.