Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-thor-rê-tee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. The power to determine, enforce, determine, or judge. 2. An accepted source of expert opinion, a reference to such a source. 3. Confidence, firm self-assurance.

Notes: In case you have ever wondered how authors got into authority, all will be explained in Word History. (It wasn't because they were once authoritarian.) The adjective for all senses of this word is authoritative. The verb is authorize in the senses of "give official permission" and "acknowledge (something) as authoritative".

In Play: The plural of this word is usually used in referring to authoritative government offices: "City authorities do not authorize drag shows within its boundaries." The third sense of authority may be heard in such utterances as this: "Ramone conducted his search of Angelina's bedroom with such an air of authority that no one questioned his right to do so."

Word History: Today's Good Word in Middle English was auctorite; the Old French equivalent was autorité. Old French inherited its word and English borrowed its word from Latin auctoritas "production, invention; father; judgement, advice". Latin based its word on auctorare "to bind, pledge, secure", a verb derived from auctor "producer, father, originator". This noun built on auctus, the past participle of augere "to increase, augment". Latin created this verb from PIE aug- "to magnify, increase" + -ter/tor a personal suffix seen in mater "mother" and pater "father". We find aug- preserved in Latin augustus "majestic; holy", Lithuanian augti and Latvian augt "to grow". Its remains are apparent in Sanskrit aogah- "strength, vigor", German wachsen "to grow", archaic English wax "to grow", preserved in 'to wax and wane'. The C [k] dropped out of Latin auctor in Romance languages leaving French with auteur and English with author. (Let's authorize gratitude to Joakim Larsson, now an authority on the matter, for suggesting from Sweden yet another well-traveled Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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