1. (noun) The ability of an individual, group, or institution to exercise control over other people and achieve their goals despite opposition or resistance.

2. (noun) A supernatural entity with the ability to influence the lives of humans.

Audio Pronunciation: (pow·er)

Download Audio Pronunciation: power.mp3

Usage Notes:

  • Plural: powers

Related Quotations:

  • “In a discipline such as sociology notorious for the difficulty it experiences in establishing widely and durably agreed definitions of its concepts, that of power (at any rate social power, which is our only concern here) stands out as one whose definition is particularly contentious and unstable. This in spite (or perhaps on account) of the fact that, however understood, this concept signals a particularly significant social phenomenon, arguably entitled to a central position in the discipline’s vocabulary and discourse” (Turner 2006:464).
  • “Most (and probably all) societies exist with systems of social division and social stratification, through which entire categories of people are elevated above others, providing one segment of the population with a disproportionate amount of money, power and prestige” (Macionis Plummer 2012:232).
  • “Rearranging the home might be part of rethinking how heterosexual couples relate. And the three-piece suite is one example of how everyday objects might reinforce ideas about men as the head of the household. Besides the sofa there might be a large ‘dad’s chair’ given prime position in the living room and a smaller ‘mum’s chair’ in the corner, reflecting traditional ideas about the proper role of women as self-sacrificing and devoted to making men comfortable. These are rather flippant examples among what were serious attempts to think critically about relationships between women and men as relationships of power” (Worrel 2001:66–7).
  • “To enforce its power and sustain its privileges, the dominate ethnic group employs certain tools, which can be subsumed under the categories of prejudice and discrimination. Widely held beliefs and values regarding the character and capacities of particular groups are necessary to assure the long-range durability of ethnic inequality. These beliefs and values take the form of prejudices, that is, negative ideas expressing the superiority of the dominant groups” (Marger 1985:45).

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Related Terms:




Kaufman, Michael, and Michael S. Kimmel. 2011. The Guy’s Guide to Feminism. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.

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Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Worell, Judith, ed. 2001. Encyclopedia of Women and Gender: Sex Similarities and Differences and the Impact of Society on Gender. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.


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How to Cite the Definition of Power

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “power.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved November 14, 2018 (https://sociologydictionary.org/power/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

power. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/power/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “power.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed November 14, 2018. https://sociologydictionary.org/power/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“power.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 14 Nov. 2018. <https://sociologydictionary.org/power/>.