Definition of sovereign in English:



  • 1A supreme ruler, especially a monarch.

    ‘the Emperor became the first Japanese sovereign to visit Britain’
    • ‘Members of the House of Hanover continue to seek the British sovereign's approval when they marry, in accordance with the Royal Marriages Act 1772.’
    • ‘Even in the eighteenth century, when he had lost all power, the Mughal emperor was seen as the natural sovereign of Hindustan.’
    • ‘The kowtow was the stumbling block; the foreigners were willing to do only such obeisance to the Chinese emperor as they would do to their own sovereigns.’
    • ‘George II was the absolute ruler of a medium-sized German state, Hanover, as well as being the British sovereign.’
    • ‘The relay offers an opportunity for millions of people to be directly involved in the games and celebrate the Queen's 50 years as British sovereign.’
    • ‘The 19th century saw the early deaths of two more potential heirs, both grandchildren of the reigning sovereign.’
    • ‘Elsewhere in the chapel lie the remains of other sovereigns, including her father King George VI, the Queen Mother's husband.’
    • ‘Reform everywhere was initiated from above; Enlightenment sovereigns perpetuated the paternalism of the previous century's absolutist princes.’
    • ‘He professed that the Emperor was the true sovereign of Japan.’
    • ‘For hundreds of years, reigning sovereigns have amassed large quantities of the best paintings, historic artifacts, contemporary master crafts and books, just to name a few, for personal enjoyment and self-aggrandizement.’
    • ‘In India, however, she was an empress, a supreme sovereign to whom other sovereigns owed homage.’
    • ‘She immediately rejected proposals that she become sole ruler and, in April 1689, she and William were crowned joint sovereigns of England.’
    • ‘Supporters have described Mary as one of the most merciful of the Tudor sovereigns.’
    • ‘Unusually for a British sovereign, George was at ease with intellectuals and country people alike.’
    • ‘He was the 10th monarch to be buried in the precinct of the chapel, with other sovereigns including Henry VIII, Charles I, George III, Edward VII and George V.’
    • ‘Our early governors-general were British, and they were appointed by the sovereign on the advice of British ministers.’
    • ‘During his presidency, Federalists lit bonfires and held balls in his honor, carrying over earlier British practices of honoring the birthday of the sovereign.’
    • ‘Not only was she the first American princess of Monaco, Alice was also the first American to marry a reigning sovereign and the first woman with a Jewish background to become the legitimate wife of a reigning sovereign.’
    • ‘But in its long history, the British monarchy has survived ignorant, incompetent, debauched and mad sovereigns as well as many ambitious mistresses.’
    • ‘The Great Elector was recognised as the sovereign of East Prussia.’
    ruler, monarch, supreme ruler, crown, crowned head, head of state, potentate, suzerain, overlord, dynast, leader
    king, queen, emperor, empress, prince, princess, tsar, royal duke, grand duke, elector, crown prince, princeling, prince regent, mogul, baron, lord, emir, sheikh, sultan, maharaja, raja
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  • 2A former British gold coin worth one pound sterling, now only minted for commemorative purposes.

    • ‘Mary's brother Robert Whittaker, a brazier, stripped to his underwear when the ship struck, and threw away 80 gold sovereigns, the weight of which threatened to drown him.’
    • ‘However, there were also crowns, farthings, guineas and sovereigns, all in varying amounts and none really compatible with any of the others.’
    • ‘The jockey, Mr J Bailey, carried 6 stone 12 pounds and the race prize money was 150 sovereigns.’
    • ‘It was worth a hundred sovereigns and run over two and a half miles.’
    • ‘Those savings would be made up of the sovereigns, florins, half-crowns, and the smaller silver he received over the years for his smithy work.’
    • ‘Successive monarchs including the current Elizabeth II have minted gold coins, which also came to be known as sovereigns.’
    • ‘However, the married father of two decided not to invest in gold bars or sovereigns, believing better returns were available from the companies that find and mine the precious metal.’
    • ‘Anderson had a mysterious habit of paying people in English sovereigns or South African gold coins, which he kept in a locked briefcase.’
    • ‘And the liner might have been forgotten had she not been carrying some 10 tons of silver and 5 tons of gold bars, plus many thousands of sovereigns.’
    • ‘The only currency to retain confidence was the gold sovereign, which had been shipped into Greece in large quantities by the British authorities to finance resistance activities.’
    • ‘She succeeded and kept her prize - a hundred gold sovereigns - waiting for a magnificent reason to spend it.’
    • ‘A 1oz South African krugerrand costs about €275 and a British sovereign about €110.’
    • ‘How can I find the latest prices for Krugerrands and gold sovereigns?’
    • ‘And there are three different inscriptions used around the edge, which originated as safeguards printed on the first machine-made gold sovereigns in 1662.’
    • ‘Interestingly, had you bought a gold sovereign in 1984 for £300, its value today would be about £200.’
    • ‘The bullion then entered the money stock of other countries, as with the British sovereign made of Brazilian gold, or was shipped eastwards to pay for Asian or Baltic imports.’
    • ‘When men such as Hudson were parachuted into Yugoslavia with their pockets filled with gold sovereigns in order to pay partisans to attack the Germans, the first thing they had to do on landing was to bury their gold.’
    • ‘Cargo included gold sovereigns and bales of leather hides.’


  • 1Possessing supreme or ultimate power.

    ‘in modern democracies the people's will is in theory sovereign’
    • ‘In 1971 the Icelandic government unilaterally declared that it was henceforth sovereign over the waters up to 50 nautical miles from its coasts.’
    • ‘If the people are the sovereign in today's Russia, then limiting their sovereign power in the name of Russia's sovereignty is absolutely absurd.’
    • ‘Its governance structure would be bottom-up, power ultimately based on sovereign individuals.’
    • ‘The people are the sovereign source of the Supreme Court's power.’
    • ‘In this country, the Constitution is sovereign, and the Supreme Court speaks for the Constitution.’
    • ‘How is Jesus of Nazareth related to the God who created all things other than Himself by His almighty, sovereign power?’
    • ‘Self-consciousness then began to shape its social world too, a process culminating in the discovery that reason is sovereign over everything.’
    • ‘We too readily forget, though, that in a republic it is we, the people, who hold the sovereign power.’
    • ‘In a purely free society, each individual is sovereign over his own person and property.’
    • ‘Governments, enjoying the full powers of a sovereign Parliament, usually have a different vantage point from the opposition parties.’
    • ‘From the religious perspective it is God who is sovereign and not the people.’
    • ‘Thus God is entirely sovereign and humans are responsible for their deeds.’
    • ‘But this Parliament needs to be quite determined that it finally is sovereign over this country.’
    • ‘God tells us in the Bible that He is sovereign over everything, and He demonstrates His sovereignty by performing miracles.’
    • ‘Parliament is sovereign, and, under parliamentary authority, regulation of almost anything can occur.’
    • ‘We, the People, are sovereign over utility lobbyists, and we can have the energy future we want.’
    • ‘If you disagree with this pope on his major doctrines, aren't you really ultimately disagreeing with the sovereign God?’
    • ‘Those two distinguished judges had held the view that Parliament and not the people was the sovereign power, contrary to the view held by Thomas Paine and the French revolutionaries.’
    • ‘Since God created the heaven and the earth, He must be either, or both, superior to and sovereign over His creation.’
    • ‘I saw God as He really is - the sovereign, all powerful Potentate.’
    supreme, absolute, unlimited, unrestricted, unrestrained, unbounded, boundless, infinite, ultimate, total, unconditional, full, utter, paramount
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    1. 1.1[attributive](of a nation or its affairs) acting or done independently and without outside interference.
      ‘a sovereign, democratic republic’
      • ‘Are we an independent and sovereign country, or are we still a camouflaged colony of the superpowers?’
      • ‘But it is not the right of the American government to interfere in the sovereign affairs of another nation.’
      • ‘The Solomon Islands is an independent sovereign country.’
      • ‘The conclusion is that the EU today is the most extensive economic cooperation project among sovereign nation states.’
      • ‘Our borders need protecting, like any sovereign nation.’
      • ‘Would any self-respecting sovereign nation accept such blatant intervention in its internal political affairs?’
      • ‘We can also wage war by being sure to vote and use the democratic system that makes sovereign nations great.’
      • ‘On the other hand, he has an understanding of the interdependence of sovereign nations in a global economy.’
      • ‘Over ten former Soviet republics became independent, sovereign nation-states by the end of 1991.’
      • ‘I also recognize that some of the sovereign nations of this assembly disagreed with our actions.’
      • ‘In theory, a member state can opt out of the EU at any time, reverting to its status as a sovereign nation outside of the EU framework.’
      • ‘As a sovereign nation, we must develop an autonomous defense capacity of our own.’
      • ‘Since 1838, when it declared itself a sovereign nation, Costa Rica has enjoyed an independent existence, which it has zealously maintained.’
      • ‘It was a sovereign country and a democratic one, and would brook no interference in its internal affairs.’
      • ‘However, the mission marks another dramatic shift away from a general policy of non-intervention in the affairs of sovereign nations.’
      • ‘We will go forward as a unified, independent, and sovereign nation that has regained a respected place in the world.’
      • ‘How can you be a sovereign nation while your country is occupied by the military of another nation?’
      • ‘We're an independent sovereign country and that's very important to Monaco.’
      • ‘They do not seem to have this problem with the Republic of Ireland, a sovereign nation which is miles ahead of Scotland in national identity and national global branding and marketing.’
      • ‘Even under existing arrangements, the demand within the EU is that sovereign nations submit themselves to intellectual and political uniformity.’
      independent, self-governing, autonomous, self-determining, self-legislating
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    2. 1.2literary, archaic [attributive]Possessing royal power and status.
      ‘our most sovereign lord the King’
      • ‘We, who are as good as you, swear to you, who are no better than us, to accept you as our king and sovereign lord, provided you observe all our liberties and laws.’
      • ‘Proclaim him as the sovereign Lord over all of creation.’
      • ‘We are called to serve the sovereign Lord as tools in his hand.’
      • ‘You and I shall become a good team working for the good of our sovereign lord, His Majesty, may he live ten thousand years.’
      • ‘Political rhetoric aside, Christians know that human freedom cannot bring lasting peace and prosperity - only the sovereign Lord of history can do that.’
      royal, regal, monarchal, monarchial, monarchical, kingly, queenly, princely, majestic
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  • 2dated [attributive] Very good or effective.

    ‘a sovereign remedy for all ills’
    • ‘Popular belief credits shark liver pills with being a sovereign remedy for illness ranging from arthritis to diabetes.’
    • ‘The writer realised they were weary and had lost heart, so he administers the sovereign remedy for that condition.’
    • ‘And it was not, in my view, the kind of sovereign remedy that the proponents make it out to be.’
    • ‘It is supposed to secure obedience to the slaveholder, and is held as a sovereign remedy among the slaves themselves, for every form of disobedience, temporal or spiritual.’


Middle English: from Old French soverain, based on Latin super above. The change in the ending was due to association with reign.