Definition of autocephalous in English:



  • (of an Eastern Christian Church) appointing its own head, not subject to the authority of an external patriarch or archbishop.

    • ‘Further, the Orthodox tradition, with its autocephalous churches and sufficiently full agreement in doctrine, presents an alternative to centralized authority.’
    • ‘The fourteen autocephalous and autonomous churches were invited to send official delegates to this important event.’
    • ‘The Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America is an autocephalous church established in 1908.’
    • ‘Obviously, further definition is needed in this area to describe the relationships between autocephalous and national church communities, for example, but we cannot go into this here.’


Mid 19th century: from Greek autokephalos (from autos self + kephalē head) + -ous.