Definition of empire in English:



  • 1An extensive group of states or countries ruled over by a single monarch, an oligarchy, or a sovereign state.

    [in names] ‘the Roman Empire’
    • ‘The Greek empire stretched from Greece eastwards so it's part of that tradition.’
    • ‘The Ottoman empire was collapsing, and lands taken from them would be divided up among the victorious powers.’
    • ‘The engineers, inventors and seafarers who built the British empire are put centre stage in this confident history.’
    • ‘But the Dutch and British colonial empires broke continuities, too.’
    • ‘The Romans established their empire at the height of Roman power.’
    • ‘The Ottoman empire lasted far longer than we have so far because it was based on power.’
    • ‘In part the old empires crumbled because of the changing balance of forces.’
    • ‘The Inca empire extended into northwest Argentina, further south the indigenous people were nomadic hunters.’
    • ‘The Mughal empire had disintegrated and was being replaced by a variety of regional states.’
    • ‘Consequently, Britain had secured for herself a vast colonial empire whereas Germany had very little.’
    • ‘Various remnants of the once vast colonial empires are still controlled by European states.’
    • ‘The second Kingdom of Kush conquered most of Egypt, and eventually ruled an empire stretching from the borders of Palestine to the Blue and White Niles.’
    • ‘The European empires were dismembered by nationalist movements, with support from lawyers, journalists, unions, and the churches.’
    • ‘Here colonists spilled their blood fighting side-by-side with the Redcoats to protect and expand the British empire.’
    • ‘When the Soviet empire collapsed, the factories kept right on humming.’
    • ‘Under Habsburg rule, it was the fourth largest city in the Austro-Hungarian empire.’
    • ‘In 1900, with the Ottoman empire crumbling, the villagers added a four-storey bell tower.’
    • ‘In China the Qing dynasty had built up the most extensive Chinese empire in history.’
    • ‘The Inca empire which existed in 1532, before the Spanish conquest, was vast.’
    • ‘As the Roman empire disintegrated, Gaul ceased to be a Roman province and was overrun by Germanic invaders.’
    kingdom, realm, domain, territory, province
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    1. 1.1[mass noun]Supreme political power over several countries when exercised by a single authority.
      ‘he encouraged the Greeks in their dream of empire in Asia Minor’
      • ‘There is a narrative of Balkan history which sees the whole 20th century as a long struggle to create nation-states out of the ruins of empire.’
      • ‘It was all part of the myth of empire, that foreigners had to eat the unmentionable parts of fish, flesh and fowl because they couldn't get - or afford - the good stuff.’
      • ‘A public that disagrees with the very concept of empire.’
      • ‘Today, the prophets would once again see truth and justice shackled with chains, enslaved by selfishness and the lust for power and empire.’
      • ‘One area that does merit more attention than we can give it here is the role played by the legitimacy of empire as a political form.’
      • ‘While love might have something to do with his return to Pumpkin, pragmatism is clearly his motivation for giving up his dreams of empire.’
      • ‘We do not have the will or perseverance for empire.’
      • ‘Muthu is among the presenters; as are most of the other leading historians of political thought about empire and colonialism.’
      • ‘It is a history of dreams of empire, and of lessons unlearned.’
      • ‘Nor will the emerging era likely prove a new age of empire.’
      • ‘The republic has been defined by its hypocrisy as much as by its virtue - just another great power justifying empire in the name of the greater improvement of all mankind.’
      • ‘In fact, there's a subset of neocons who believe that given our unparalleled power, empire is our destiny and we might as well embrace it.’
      • ‘For it is a mistake to suppose that institutions alone will save a republic from the abuses of power to which empire inevitably leads.’
      • ‘Power and empire may not be quite the same thing but the distinction between them is less apparent than policymakers in Washington affect to believe.’
      • ‘Last year's Nobel Prize winner gives us the horror and the squalor, the dislocation and the dread that are the legacy of empire.’
      • ‘Only a very strong, perhaps only a globally dominant, power can sustain informal empire in the long run.’
      • ‘The nation that came to an end under the power of foreign empire will know a new beginning and a new future.’
    2. 1.2archaic [mass noun]Absolute control over a person or group.
      • ‘Yet to accept its empire over every aspect of life, from art to sport in addition to all forms of business, cannot be the culminating achievement of human existence.’
      • ‘O powerful god, he cried, thou who holdest empire over the waves, deign to hearken to an unfortunate man!’
      • ‘Your death would be too dear a sacrifice: Virtue will resume her empire over your actions.’
      • ‘Outside of God's prior work of justification, man is under the empire of sin.’
      • ‘With infinite complacency, men went to and fro about the globe, confident of our empire over this world.’
  • 2An extensive sphere of activity controlled by one person or group.

    ‘the kitchen had once been the school dinner ladies' empire’
    • ‘The law school feels like an empire unto itself.’
    • ‘Local authorities have become vast empires of superfluous activity, overmanned at taxpayers' expense.’
    • ‘Luckily, part of his blogging empire includes a blog on the best ways to improve ones site in order to make a little scratch.’
    • ‘Of course, empire builders cannot tolerate competition, and he must be eliminated.’
    • ‘He seeks the best and wisest expert to repair them, dragging him away from the clutches of the evil rock and roll empire.’
    • ‘The Kingpin is beginning to lose control of his criminal empire.’
    1. 2.1A large commercial organization owned or controlled by one person or group.
      ‘her business empire grew’
      • ‘He is one of the most powerful men on Earth, with a global information empire, News Corporation, that grabs the attention of two-thirds of the world's population.’
      • ‘But political power will help him map out new administrative platforms to secure his business empire.’
      • ‘But before that he has to oversee his expanding retail empire.’
      • ‘Finally, while his corporate empire is loaded with debt, the extent to which he himself has personal debts remains a closely guarded secret.’
      • ‘The disciplines he learnt then, he says, are the ones he now imposes on the business empires he takes over.’
      • ‘The son of an impoverished Jewish family in Central Europe, he ended up serving in the British army and as an MP before building one of the biggest business empires in the world.’
      • ‘Through their control of vast energy empires, the oil monopolies are in a powerful position to control supplies and thereby jack up prices.’
      • ‘It was Arun who suggested that she launch her own clothing empire.’
      • ‘Johnson began to expand his publishing empire by launching a myriad of publications.’
      • ‘Her business empire suffered from employee dissatisfaction and manager buyouts, and indeed her entire business was almost totally lost to her on at least three occasions.’
      • ‘There is no doubt, however, that his media empire reinforces his political power.’
      • ‘His business empire stretches from aviation to pharmaceuticals and private security.’
      • ‘Normally business empires grow over four or five generations.’
      • ‘I began building my vast media empire by starting a small regional newspaper in East Texas.’
      • ‘In the process, he established a varied business empire and married into the Kennedy family.’
      • ‘How did he decide to start expanding his restaurant empire beyond Manhattan?’
      • ‘It can be used by Indians no less than Americans to leverage their talent to create global corporate empires.’
      • ‘These new owners are turning to corporate managers to help transform the clubs into functioning parts of their business empires.’
      • ‘More impressive still, he has built his empire with a tiny organization and very little of his own capital.’
      • ‘He is on a European tour and is looking to expand his business empire, perhaps to Ireland.’
      organization, corporation, multinational, conglomerate, consortium, company, business, firm, operation, institution, establishment, body
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  • 1Denoting a style of furniture, decoration, or dress fashionable chiefly during the First Empire in France. The decorative style was neoclassical but marked by an interest in Egyptian and other ancient motifs.

    • ‘It glories in its Louis XIV and Empire style, all marble, gilt and elaborate stucco.’
  • 2British dated Denoting produce from the Commonwealth.


Middle English: via Old French from Latin imperium, related to imperare to command (see emperor).