Printable Version
Pronunciation: sah-vrên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, Noun

Meaning: 1. (Adjective) Belonging to an independent nation or state, as 'a sovereign power'. 2. (Adjective) Powerful, excellent, outstanding, 'a sovereign remedy'. 3. (Adjective) Supreme in authority, 'a sovereign lord'. 4. (Noun) A monarch, king, crowned head, lord of a demesne. 5. (Noun) A former British gold coin worth one pound sterling.

Notes: Today's word has fallen victim to what I've called LVS, Loose Vowel Syndrome. I don't think I've ever heard the unaccented middle vowel, E, pronounced. The power of a sovereign or the area of his authority in sense four may be called his sovereignty.

In Play: Sovereign may be used as an adjective: "China claims most of the South China sea, an important shipping lane, as its sovereign territory." It may be used as a noun: "Ty Kuhn likes to survey his vast land holdings and think of himself as the sovereign of all he surveys."

Word History: English borrowed sovereign from the Old French adjective soverain "highest, supreme". French whittled its word down from Medieval Latin superans "predominant", based on super "over, above, beyond". Super was a variant of Proto-Indo-European (s)uper "over", which also bore Sanskrit upari, Greek hyper, and English over. It was reduced to sur "over" in Modern French. English borrowed super directly from Latin for its adjective and prefix, 'I'm super!' and superstupid. PIE (s)uper seems to have come from (s)up "(from) under" + the suffix -er. This suffix may have served in PIE as a suffix meaning "from", but we have no assurances of this. " (Let's now thank Tomasz Kowaltowski, who lives somewhere in the sovereign nation of Brazil, for recommending today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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