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A sovereign (from the Middle Latin superanus , 'above', 'superior') is understood to mean the holder of state authority . In democracies , the people of the state regularly have this constitutional and international law function - usually indirectly in representative systems - the head of state , for example the king or prince , in absolute and constitutional monarchies .



At the time of absolutism , the sovereign was the king, for example the king of France . The Roman-German emperor , who the supreme lord of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation , was not considered a sovereign, because a sovereign exercises its power of absolute and indivisible, has the monopoly , legislation to enact and repeal is supreme warlord, lord and Judges , makes top financial decisions, directs the economy, enforces the state church and appoints all ministers and civil servants.


In the republic there is no generally applicable definition of sovereign. In principle, the people are the bearers of sovereignty (→  popular sovereignty ), but depending on the constitution they have more or less delegated state power to the head of state and parliament (→  constitutional state ).


In Switzerland , in general (but not legal) linguistic usage, the people entitled to vote and to vote, the community of voters , are referred to as the sovereign; it is indeed the voters, directly, directly (→  Swiss direct democracy ). For example, in the reporting of referendums in votes, it is often said: “The sovereign has decided”.

United Kingdom

A special case is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland , in which de jure “the king in parliament” (also the King-in-Parliament ), de facto the House of Commons , is the sovereign. This is due to the historical development of the British political system and is commonly referred to as parliamentary sovereignty. Nevertheless, it is still customary in British literature, including among constitutional lawyers, to refer to the monarch as the sovereign .

Legal theory

In Carl Schmitt's legal doctrine , the sovereign is understood in terms of a state of emergency : "He who decides on a state of emergency is sovereign."



The word comes from the French word sovereign and from the Latin superanus = "above, superior". In Latin, super means "above, on, above". The closely related word sovereignty has the same Middle Latin root, but is derived from the French souveraineté .


In addition to legal self-determination (cf. sovereignty ), the term “ sovereign ” refers to the safe or superior mastery of a task.

Example: A sovereign performance - d. H. a perfectly mastered performance.

Web links

Wiktionary: Sovereign  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Z. BAW Bradley / KD Ewing, Constitutional and Administrative Law , 14th ed., Harlow 2007, p. 200.
  2. Duden , Volume 7. The dictionary of origin. Etymology of the German language .