One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Roman Law. The power or authority of the head of a family over those legally subject to him; especially paternal authority.
2Phonetics. The phonetic or phonemic value of a letter in an alphabet. Chiefly historical.
Mid 17th century (in an earlier sense). From classical Latin potestās power, authority, control, position of power, office, ruler, magistrate, spiritual power, property, healing property, phonetic or phonemic value of a letter in an alphabet, in post-classical Latin also member of an order of angels (Vulgate), demon (Vulgate), angel (3rd cent.), magistrate in medieval Italy, mathematical power from potis having the power, able + -tās, perhaps after maiestās beside magis more.
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