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Sovereignty vs. Independence — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Fiza Rafique — Updated on September 19, 2023
Sovereignty refers to a governing body's full right and power to govern itself without any interference from outside sources. Independence is the state of being free from external control but does not necessarily imply governance.
Sovereignty vs. Independence — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Sovereignty and Independence


Key Differences

Sovereignty is the ultimate authority in decision-making and governance over a territory or people, generally wielded by a state or a governing body. Independence, conversely, is the condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population exercise self-government. Sovereignty is more about authority; independence is about freedom.
While sovereignty involves the full autonomy to make laws, levy taxes, and conduct foreign policy, independence is more focused on being free from external domination or control. Sovereignty holds the legal right to perform these functions; independence doesn't necessarily grant that right.
In international law, sovereignty is recognized as the full right and power of a governing body to govern itself without any interference from outside sources. Independence, on the other hand, might not be recognized legally but is more a state of fact, reflecting actual freedom from outside control. Sovereignty is a legal term; independence can be de facto.
Grammatically, both "sovereignty" and "independence" are nouns, but their usages can differ. "Sovereignty" is often used in legal and governmental contexts, while "independence" can be used in a broad range of situations, including personal and organizational contexts. Sovereignty is more specific; independence is more general.

Comparison Chart


Ultimate authority in governance
State of being free from external control

Legal Recognition

Often legally recognized
May or may not be legally recognized


Usually refers to states or governing bodies
Can refer to nations, organizations, or individuals

Grammatical Role

Primarily a noun
Primarily a noun

Governing Authority

Implies having governing authority
Does not necessarily imply governance

Compare with Definitions


Ultimate authority over a territory.
The country fought to retain its sovereignty.


Freedom from external control.
The colony gained its independence.


The power to govern without external interference.
Sovereignty allows a nation to make its own laws.


Ability to self-govern.
After years of struggle, they achieved independence.


Includes making laws and foreign policy.
Sovereignty encompasses legislative and diplomatic powers.


Can refer to personal freedom.
She moved out to gain some independence.


Is a noun.
The word 'sovereignty' functions as a noun in sentences.


Is a noun.
The word 'independence' functions as a noun in sentences.


Legally recognized authority.
International law respects the sovereignty of nations.


May not be legally recognized.
Their independence is not recognized by other countries.


Sovereignty is the supreme authority within a territory. Sovereignty entails hierarchy within the state, as well as external autonomy for states.


Independence is a condition of a person, nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory. The opposite of independence is the status of a dependent territory.


Supreme power or authority
The sovereignty of Parliament


The fact or state of being independent
I've always valued my independence
Argentina gained independence from Spain in 1816


Supremacy of authority or rule as exercised by a sovereign or sovereign state.


The state or quality of being independent.


Royal rank, authority, or power.


(Archaic) Sufficient income for comfortable self-support; a competence.


Complete independence and self-government.


The quality or state of being independent; lack of dependence; the state of not being reliant on, or controlled by, others.


A territory existing as an independent state.


The state of having sufficient means for a comfortable livelihood.


Of a polity: the state of making laws and controlling resources without the coercion of other nations.


The state or quality of being independent; freedom from dependence; exemption from reliance on, or control by, others; self-subsistence or maintenance; direction of one's own affairs without interference.
Let fortune do her worst, . . . as long as she never makes us lose our honesty and our independence.


Of a ruler: supreme authority over all things.


Sufficient means for a comfortable livelihood.


Of a person: the liberty to decide one's thoughts and actions.


Freedom from control or influence of another or others


Excellence, mastery, preeminent efficacy.


The successful ending of the American Revolution;
They maintained close relations with England even after independence


An independent or sovereign territory.


A city in western Missouri; the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail


The quality or state of being sovereign, or of being a sovereign; the exercise of, or right to exercise, supreme power; dominion; sway; supremacy; independence; also, that which is sovereign; a sovereign state; as, Italy was formerly divided into many sovereignties.
Woman desiren to have sovereigntyAs well over their husband as over their love.


Government free from external control


Royal authority; the dominion of a monarch

Common Curiosities

Is Sovereignty legally recognized?

Generally, yes, sovereignty is often legally recognized.

Can Sovereignty be forfeited?

Yes, through conquest, treaty, or legal agreements.

What is Independence?

Independence is the state of being free from external control.

Is Independence legally recognized?

It may or may not be; legal recognition varies.

Who exercises Sovereignty?

Typically, a state or governing body exercises sovereignty.

Does Independence imply governance?

Not necessarily; it mainly implies freedom from control.

What is the grammatical role of Independence?

It is primarily used as a noun.

What is Sovereignty?

Sovereignty is the ultimate authority to govern a territory or population.

Who can claim Independence?

Nations, colonies, organizations, or individuals can claim independence.

Can Independence be forfeited?

Yes, it can be lost through colonization or occupation.

What is the grammatical role of Sovereignty?

It is primarily used as a noun.

How are Sovereignty and Independence different?

Sovereignty involves governance, whereas independence focuses on freedom.

Can Independence and Sovereignty co-exist?

Yes, a sovereign state is often also independent, and vice versa.

Is Sovereignty about governance?

Yes, it involves the authority to make laws, tax, and more.

Can a country have Independence without Sovereignty?

Technically, yes, if it's free from external control but lacks governance.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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