The powers that be

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In idiomatic English, "the powers that be" (sometimes initialized as TPTB) is a phrase used to refer to those individuals or groups who collectively hold authority over a particular domain.[1] Within this phrase, the word be is an archaic variant of are rather than a subjunctive be. The use of are in this phrase ("the powers that are") is less common. "The powers that were" (TPTW) can also be found.

Origin[edit]

The phrase first appeared in the Tyndale Bible, William Tyndale's 1526 translation of the New Testament, as: "Let every soul submit himself unto the authority of the higher powers. There is no power but of God. The powers that be, are ordained of God".[2] In the 1611 King James Version it became, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: The powers that be are ordained of God." (rom 13:1),[3] whence it eventually passed into popular language.[4][5]

The phrase comes from a translation of the Greek: αἱ ... οὖσαι [ἐξουσίαι], romanizedhai ... oûsai [exousíai], lit.'the ... existing [powers]'; ἐξουσίαι is also translated as "authorities" in some other translations.[6]

Examples[edit]

"The powers that be" can refer to a variety of entities that depend on the domain, including

In Popular Culture[edit]

The Public Enemy song "Fight the Power" (Public Enemy song) features a call to "fight the powers that be."[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "powers that be". The Free Dictionary. Farlex. 2011. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  2. ^ Tyndale, William (1526). Tyndale Bible. Archived from the original on September 27, 2013.
  3. ^ [1] Archived December 18, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "The powers that be - meaning and origin". Phrases.org.uk. Retrieved 2015-06-02.
  5. ^ "powers that be - definition of powers that be by The Free Dictionary". Thefreedictionary.com. 1987-03-01. Retrieved 2015-06-02.
  6. ^ Biblos.com. Chain Link Bible. Romans 13:1.
  7. ^ Watrous, Peter (April 22, 1990). "RECORDINGS; Public Enemy Makes Waves - and Compelling Music". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved 2012-06-07.

External links[edit]