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.


The phrase first appeared in the Tyndale Bible, William Tyndale's 1526 translation of Romans Chapter 13 verse 1 in 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]


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

In popular culture[edit]

See also[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". Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  5. ^ "powers that be - definition of powers that be by The Free Dictionary". March 1, 1987. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  6. ^ 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 June 7, 2012.
  8. ^ "Puscifer Lyrics".

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