Etymology
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authority (n.)
Origin and meaning of authority

c. 1200, autorite, auctorite "authoritative passage or statement, book or quotation that settles an argument, passage from Scripture," from Old French autorité, auctorité "authority, prestige, right, permission, dignity, gravity; the Scriptures" (12c.; Modern French autorité), from Latin auctoritatem (nominative auctoritas) "invention, advice, opinion, influence, command," from auctor "master, leader, author" (see author (n.)).

It usually was spelled with a -c- in English before 16c. but the letter was dropped in imitation of French, then with a -th-, probably by influence of authentic.

It is attested from c. 1300 in the general sense of "legal validity," also "authoritative doctrine" (opposed to reason or experience), also "author whose statements are regarded as correct." It is from mid-14c. as "right to rule or command, power to enforce obedience, power or right to command or act."

In Middle English it also meant "power derived from good reputation; power to convince people, capacity for inspiring trust." It is attested from c. 1400 as "official sanction, authorization." The meaning "persons in authority" is from 1610s; the authorities "those in charge, those with police powers" is recorded from mid-19c.

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hierarchy (n.)
Origin and meaning of hierarchy

late 14c., jerarchie, ierarchie, "rank in the sacred order; one of the three divisions of the nine orders of angels;" loosely, "rule, dominion," from Old French ierarchie (14c., Modern French hiérarchie), from Medieval Latin hierarchia "ranked division of angels" (in the system of Dionysius the Areopagite), from Greek hierarkhia "rule of a high priest," from hierarkhes "high priest, leader of sacred rites," from ta hiera "the sacred rites" (neuter plural of hieros "sacred;" see ire) + arkhein "to lead, rule" (see archon). Sense of "ranked organization of persons or things" first recorded 1610s, initially of clergy, sense probably influenced by higher.

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hierarchic (adj.)

1680s, from Medieval Latin hierarchicus, from hierarchia (see hierarchy).

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hierarch (n.)

"one who rules in holy things," 1570s, from Medieval Latin hierarcha, from Greek hierarkhia, from hierarkhes "leader of sacred rites, high priest" (see hierarchy).

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pigmentocracy (n.)

"a social or governmental hierarchy based on skin tone regardless of race," 1952, usually in a South African context, apparently coined in "The Economist," from pigment + -cracy "rule or government by."

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Peter Principle (n.)

1968, "in a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence," named for (and by) Laurence Johnston Peter (1919-1990) Canadian-born U.S. educationalist and author, who described it in his book of the same name (1969).

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mana (n.)

"power, authority, supernatural power," 1843, from Maori, "power, authority, supernatural power."

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underling (n.)

late Old English, "one who owes allegiance to a sovereign or ruler," from under + diminutive suffix -ling. Middle English had also overling "a superior, one who is superior in a hierarchy" (mid-14c.).

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authoritative (adj.)

c. 1600, "dictatorial" (a sense now restricted to authoritarian), earlier auctoritative (implied in auctoritativeli "with official approval or sanction"), from Medieval Latin auctoritativus, from Latin auctoritatem (see authority).

The meaning "having due authority, entitled to credence or obedience" is from 1650s; that of "proceeding from proper authority" is from 1809. Related: Authoritatively; authoritativeness.

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imperium (n.)

"authority to command the national military forces," in extended use "an empire," 1650s, from Latin imperium "command, supreme authority, power" (see empire). Hence Latin phrase imperium in imperio "a state within a state."

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