The Meaning of Autonomous: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of autonomous? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word autonomous, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word autonomous mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary of the English Language and the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary, the word autonomous is an adjective that refers to something that is free, independent, or sovereign, or operating on its own. Something that is autonomous is free from external control and constraint, or has a large degree of self-government. An autonomous group, country, or organization government or controls itself and is not controlled by anyone else. This is also a moral philosophy of Kant, and used in imperative biology to refer to an organism independent of other organisms. This word can be used for niche use cases or generally. 

Many things can be autonomous, like an autonomous unit, autonomous driving on highways which some believe is the future of transportation, the autonomous partitioning of India, an autonomous subsidiary, autonomous underwater vehicles, an autonomous community, autonomous individuals, autonomous technology, autonomous drones that can perform the delivery of packages of their own choosing for a point-to-point service, an autonomous group of companies, autonomous jute economies, autonomous political bodies that are an independent entity, an autonomous person, an autonomous judiciary, an autonomous sovereign state, an autonomous country, a patient’s personal autonomy, autonomous organizations, and more. Autonomous is four syllables – au-to-no-mous, and the pronunciation of autonomous is ɔːtɒnəməs.

Many different languages also use their own terms that mean autonomous. You may notice that some of these translations of autonomous from Word Sense look and sound similar to the word autonomous. These are called cognates, which are formed when two words of different languages have the same language of origin or root. 

  •  Japanese: 自治‎ (じち, jichi)
  •  Esperanto: aŭtonoma‎
  •  Ido: autonoma‎
  •  Dutch: autonoom‎
  •  Nynorsk: autonom‎, sjølvstyrt‎
  •  Italian: autonomo‎ (masc.), autonoma‎ (fem.)
  •  Albanian: autonom‎
  •  Korean: 자치‎
  •  Greek: αυτόνομος‎
  •  Portuguese: autónomo‎ (Portugal), autônomo‎ (Brazil)
  •  Yiddish: אויטאָנאָם‎, אויטאָנאָמיש‎
  •  Bulgarian: автономен‎, независим‎
  •  Serbo-Croatian: sȁmostālan‎, àutonōman‎,
  •  Czech: samosprávný‎, autonomní‎
  •  German: autonom‎
  •  Hungarian: autonómia‎
  •  Hindi: स्वायत्त‎
  •  Catalan: autònom‎
  •  Spanish: autónomo‎ (masc.)
  •  Russian: автоно́мный‎
  •  French: autonome‎ (masc.) (f)
  •  Romanian: autonom‎ (masc.) (n), autonomă‎ (fem.)
  •  Bokmål: autonom‎, selvstyrt‎, sjølstyrt‎
  •  Mandarin: 自治‎ (zìzhì)

What are synonyms and antonyms of autonomous?

There are many different words that can be used in place of the word autonomous. These words are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same definition as another given word or phrase. Learning synonyms is a great way to expand your vocabulary and avoid repeating yourself in written and spoken English. This list of synonyms for the word autonomous is provided by Power Thesaurus.

  •  discrete
  •  detached
  •  nonaligned
  •  self-legislation
  •  dispersed
  •  uncompelled
  •  autarchical
  •  independent
  •  neutral
  •  discretional
  •  disparate
  •  self-sufficient
  •  unforced
  •  voluntary
  •  dissociated
  •  populist
  •  unconnected
  •  self-directing
  •  unasked
  •  without a connection
  •  democratic
  •  freestanding
  •  unconstrained
  •  unsalaried
  •  self-ruled
  •  self-reliant
  •  self- reliant
  •  self-governed
  •  unpaid
  •  free-willed
  •  freed
  •  apart
  •  not interconnected
  •  unenslaved
  •  autarchic
  •  unaffiliated
  •  emancipated
  •  free-standing
  •  honorary
  •  republican
  •  standalone
  •  not connected
  •  absolute
  •  self-contained
  •  individualistic
  •  unattached
  •  sovereigns
  •  unprescribed
  •  commemorative
  •  separated
  •  unrelated
  •  unilateral
  •  freewheeling
  •  sovereign
  •  tyrannous
  •  gratuitous
  •  self-determining
  •  off line
  •  offline
  •  self reliant
  •  titular
  •  autonomic
  •  self-determined
  •  self-governing
  •  unregimented
  •  sui juris
  •  uncontrolled
  •  divided
  •  elected
  •  free
  •  self-sustained
  •  independence
  •  self directed
  •  irrespective
  •  individual
  •  self-sustaining
  •  autonomy
  •  honorific
  •  distinct
  •  disconnected
  •  self supporting
  •  separate
  •  unallied
  •  not linked
  •  genuine
  •  self-legislative
  •  self-supporting
  •  honorable
  •  freer
  •  nonpartisan
  •  honourable
  •  stand-alone
  •  different
  •  self-directed
  •  divorced
  •  self-ruling
  •  isolated
  •  released
  •  monocratic
  •  autarkic

There are also plenty of different words that have the opposite meaning of autonomous. These opposite words are called antonyms, which are another great tool for expanding your English language vocabulary in a quick and easy way. This list of antonyms is also provided by Power Thesaurus.

  •  aerated
  •  associated
  •  ancillary
  •  interdependent
  •  closely connected
  •  affiliated
  •  back to back
  •  autocratic
  •  closely bound
  •  across the board
  •  beaten
  •  alloyed
  •  akin
  •  amalgamated
  •  arranged
  •  bound
  •  closely tied
  •  subordinate
  •  accorded
  •  assorted
  •  blunged
  •  bracketed
  •  associated closely
  •  banded
  •  abased
  •  conflated
  •  allied
  •  strongly associated with
  •  strongly related
  •  closely linked
  •  closely associated with
  •  liable to
  •  subservient
  •  closely associated
  •  subject
  •  strongly linked
  •  dependent
  •  affixed
  •  accessory to
  •  appurtenant
  •  closely interlinked
  •  attached
  •  strongly associated
  •  attributed
  •  multicultural
  •  associated with
  •  blended
  •  closely related
  •  admixed
  •  significantly related

What is the word origin of autonomous?

According to Etymonline, the word autonomous has been used since the late 18c and comes from the Greek autonomos/Greek autónomos meaning having one’s own laws or of animals to mean feeding or ranging at will. This comes from the Greek autos meaning self and Greek nomos meaning law. The suffix ly can be added the the end of autonomous to make the related word autonomously (adv.)

How can the word autonomous be used in a sentence?

The word autonomous can be used in numerous different sentences in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a great way to memorize their definitions so that you can incorporate them into your vocabulary. You can also try making flashcards or quizzes for yourself to test your knowledge of different terms. Try to use this new word of the day in a sentence today! It might become a new favorite word. Below are several examples of the word autonomous to help get you started. 

Aurora’s big ambitions were in the field of autonomous transportation. She believed this was a cost-effective form of transportation for both riders and the companies. The current state of its product development was in its early stages, but with investment from outside forces and industry executives, this would cause broader industry shifts and faster development. Similar situations were had with hybrid cars.

The girl was happy to be autonomous and finally free of her guardian rules. Her guardian was not self-aware of such cases of giving teenagers freedom, and felt their own minds were not developed enough yet.

The doctors at Princeton University studied autonomy in their bioethical philosophy of medicine class.

Overall, autonomous means free or able to make one’s own decisions. This word is Greek in origin.


  1. Autonomous definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary 
  2. Autonomous synonyms – 545 Words and Phrases for Autonomous | Power Thesaurus 
  3. Autonomous antonyms – 571 Opposites of Autonomous | Power Thesaurus 
  4. autonomous: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  5. autonomous | Origin and meaning of autonomous | Online Etymology Dictionary