The powers that be (phrase)
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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. It is a plurale tantum where "be" is the archaic alternative form of "are"; the singular equivalent, "the power that is," is less commonly used. "The powers that were" (TPTW) is also another derivation that is used.
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". This means that God is the most powerful being, above human governments. 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." (
The phrase comes from a translation of the Greek: αἱ ... οὖσαι [ἐξουσίαι], translit. hai ... oûsai [exousíai], lit. 'the ... existing [powers]'; ἐξουσίαι is also translated as "authorities" in some other translations.
"The powers that be" can refer to a variety of entities that depend on the domain, including
- Governments, both central and local, and the accompanying civil service
- The upper management of a business
- Those who control the dissemination of information
- Controlling bodies in any organization i.e corporation or activity
- Karma or Fate
- Content creators
- powers that be. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved June 5 2016 from http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/powers+that+be
-  Archived September 27, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
-  Archived December 18, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
- "The powers that be - meaning and origin". Phrases.org.uk. Retrieved 2015-06-02.
- "powers that be - definition of powers that be by The Free Dictionary". Thefreedictionary.com. 1987-03-01. Retrieved 2015-06-02.
- Biblos.com. Chain Link Bible. Romans 13:1.
- The dictionary definition of powers that be at Wiktionary