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Authority vs. Ruler: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 19, 2023
"Authority" denotes a right or power to enforce rules, while "Ruler" is an individual who governs a country or region.

Key Differences

"Authority" signifies the power or right to give orders and enforce obedience, representing a concept or system, whereas a "Ruler" is specifically an individual, a person who holds the position of governance or command, often in a political context.
"Authority" can be an abstract concept, embodied in roles or institutions, and isn't solely confined to individuals; it represents a structural power, while "Ruler" distinctly refers to a person, emphasizing the human element in leadership, dominion, or control.
"Authority" often conveys a sense of legitimacy, the legal power or rightfulness bestowed upon positions or systems, and is also associated with knowledge or expertise, while "Ruler" implies a position of supremacy, often hereditary or acquired, without necessarily implying expertise or rightful claim to leadership.
"Authority" is multifaceted, extending to realms like expertise (an authority on a subject), legal power (law enforcement authority), or moral influence (religious authority), while "Ruler" is more unidimensional, primarily denoting a person at the top of a hierarchical structure.
"Authority" and "Ruler" both carry weight of influence and control, but while authority can be dispersed, delegated, or shared within systems and roles, a ruler stands as a singular entity, a pinnacle of control, often in a governmental or territorial setting.

Comparison Chart


Power or right
An individual in power


Abstract concept, role, or institution
Specific person


Implies rightfulness or expertise
May or may not imply legitimacy


Broader, includes knowledge authority
Narrower, political dominion


Can be shared or delegated
Centrally focused on one person

Authority and Ruler Definitions


A person with extensive knowledge.
She's an authority on ancient Roman history.


A tool for measuring length.
She drew a straight line with a ruler.


The right to make important decisions.
The principal has the authority to cancel school events.


A person considered supreme in a certain area.
He was the unchallenged ruler of local chess clubs.


The power to enforce laws.
The police have the authority to arrest lawbreakers.


A king or queen.
The ruler ascended to the throne at a young age.


An official body that enforces laws.
The city's transportation authority announced new traffic rules.


A leader or one who sets standards.
As a ruler in innovation, she pioneered new technologies.


The power to enforce laws, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge.


A person exercising government or dominion.
The ruler decreed new policies for trade.


One that is invested with this power, especially a government or body of government officials
Land titles issued by the civil authority.


One, such as a monarch or dictator, that rules or governs.


Power assigned to another; authorization
Deputies were given authority to make arrests.


A straightedged strip, as of wood or metal, for drawing straight lines and measuring lengths. Also called rule.


A public agency or corporation with administrative powers in a specified field
A city transit authority.


A (usually rigid), flat, rectangular measuring or drawing device with graduations in units of measurement; a straightedge with markings.


An accepted source of expert information or advice
A noted authority on birds.
A reference book often cited as an authority.


A person who rules or governs; someone or something that exercises dominion or controlling power over others.


A quotation or citation from such a source
Biblical authorities for a moral argument.


(transitive) To beat with a ruler (as a traditional school punishment).


Justification; grounds
On what authority do you make such a claim?.


One who rules; one who exercises sway or authority; a governor.
And he made him ruler over all the land.
A prince and ruler of the land.


A conclusive statement or decision that may be taken as a guide or precedent.


Measuring stick consisting of a strip of wood or metal or plastic with a straight edge that is used for drawing straight lines and measuring lengths


Power to influence or persuade resulting from knowledge or experience
Political observers who acquire authority with age.


A person who rules or commands;
Swayer of the universe


Confidence derived from experience or practice; firm self-assurance
Played the sonata with authority.


(uncountable) Power or right to make or enforce rules or give orders; or a position having such power or right.
I have the authority to penalise the staff in my department, but not the authority to sack them.
Vigilantes may have the power to nab criminals, but they lack the authority.
She lost all respect and authority after turning up drunk at the meeting.
Respect my authority!


(plural) Persons, regarded collectively, who occupy official positions of power; police or law enforcement.
Authorities say the suspect fled on foot.


(countable) A reliable, definitive source of information on a subject.
The world's foremost authority on orangutans
My cheap dictionary is not the authority on word derivations.


(uncountable) Status as a trustworthy source of information, reputation for mastery or expertise; or claim to such status or reputation.
Some thinkers regard appealing to authority as a logical fallacy; others regard it as a legitimate form of argument.


Official permission; authorisation to act in some capacity on behalf of a ruling entity.


(countable) A government-owned agency that runs a revenue-generating activity for public benefit.
New York Port Authority
Chicago Transit Authority


Legal or rightful power; a right to command or to act; power exercised buy a person in virtue of his office or trust; dominion; jurisdiction; authorization; as, the authority of a prince over subjects, and of parents over children; the authority of a court.
Thus can the demigod, Authority,Make us pay down for our offense.
By what authority doest thou these things ?


Government; the persons or the body exercising power or command; as, the local authorities of the States; the military authorities.


The power derived from opinion, respect, or esteem; influence of character, office, or station, or mental or moral superiority, and the like; claim to be believed or obeyed; as, an historian of no authority; a magistrate of great authority.


That which, or one who, is claimed or appealed to in support of opinions, actions, measures, etc.
Wilt thou be glass wherein it shall discernAuthority for sin, warrant for blame.


The power or right to give orders or make decisions;
He has the authority to issue warrants
Deputies are given authorization to make arrests


(usually plural) persons who exercise (administrative) control over others;
The authorities have issued a curfew


An expert whose views are taken as definitive;
He is an authority on corporate law


Freedom from doubt; belief in yourself and your abilities;
His assurance in his superiority did not make him popular
After that failure he lost his confidence
She spoke with authority


An administrative unit of government;
The Central Intelligence Agency
The Census Bureau
Office of Management and Budget
Tennessee Valley Authority


Official permission or approval;
Authority for the program was renewed several times


An authoritative written work;
This book is the final authority on the life of Milton


The power to influence others.
His charisma gives him natural authority.


Is a "Ruler" always a monarch?

No, a ruler can be any head of a political entity, elected or otherwise.

Can "Authority" be non-governmental?

Yes, authority extends to expert opinions or organizational hierarchies.

Does "Authority" require consent?

It's stronger with consent, but can be imposed.

Can a "Ruler" be unofficial?

Typically, rulers hold official positions, but informal rulers can exist.

Is a "Ruler" always an individual?

Generally, though committees or groups can jointly rule.

Does a "Ruler" have unlimited power?

Not usually; most are bound by laws or constitutions.

Does "Authority" imply control?

Yes, it involves the power to enforce rules or give orders.

Is "Authority" always respected?

Not necessarily; it can be challenged or disobeyed.

Does being a "Ruler" require legitimacy?

Legitimacy helps, but rulers can also seize power.

Is "Authority" the same as power?

It's a form of power, especially in decision-making.

Can an organization be an "Authority"?

Yes, if it holds power or expertise in a field.

Can "Ruler" refer to non-political leaders?

It's possible, but it's primarily used for political figures.

Can "Ruler" denote a corporate leader?

It's uncommon, as it mainly refers to political leaders.

Does "Authority" always involve decision-making?

Largely, as it's about directing actions or setting policies.

Are "Authority" figures always leaders?

Often, but authority can also be a function or role.

Can a "Ruler" be a figurehead?

Yes, some have ceremonial roles with little real power.

Can "Authority" be inherited?

It can be, especially in traditional or familial structures.

Is a "Ruler" considered infallible?

No, rulers can make mistakes like anyone.

Can "Authority" be revoked?

Yes, through legal changes or loss of credibility.

Can a "Ruler" be elected?

Yes, rulers can be elected officials like presidents.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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