The phrase "powers that be" is used to talk about the people in charge of a situation, organization, or government. It is often used to describe those who have the most authority or control. The phrase can be used in both formal and casual settings, and it can relate to various sectors like politics, business, or even social groups.
When someone talks about the "powers that be," they're pointing to the people or organizations with the most influence or control. It could mean the top bosses at your job, government officials, or any group that has a say in big decisions. For example, you might hear someone say, "I don't know if the holiday will get approved; it's up to the powers that be.
Let's look at its basic meanings and how it's used:
The phrase “powers that be” is derived from the Bible, specifically Romans 13. It first appeared in print in English in Tyndale’s Bible in 1526. Historically, this phrase has been used to refer to those in positions of authority or governance. It carries a sense of respect and deference towards these entities, acknowledging their ordained status.
“Let every soule submit him selfe vnto the auctorite of ye hyer powers. For there is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordeyned of God. Whosoever therfore resysteth power resisteth the ordinaunce of God. And they that resist shall receave to the selfe damnacio.”
To help you get a good handle on when and how to use this phrase, let's go over some examples in various situations:
This phrase isn't just for serious talks; you'll also hear it in movies, TV shows, and songs.
Check out these examples:
If you're looking for some simpler phrases to use, here you go:
"Powers that be" refers to people or organizations that have authority or control in a particular setting. This could be your bosses at work, government officials, or any group that makes decisions.
You can use it to talk about those who have the final say or control over a situation. For example: "I don't make the rules, that's up to the powers that be," or "The powers that be decided to cut our budget."
The phrase is generally neutral but can take on a negative or positive tone depending on the context. For example, if the powers that be make a good decision, it's positive; if they make a bad one, it's negative.
No, it can refer to any person or group with influence or control, whether it's a formal authority like a government or an informal one like the popular kids at school.
The phrase "powers that be" originally comes from the Bible, specifically Romans 13:1, where it's used to describe governing authorities.
Yes, it's a commonly used term to describe those in control in various settings, like work, politics, or even family dynamics.
Yes, sometimes people use "powers that be" sarcastically when they disagree with a decision but feel powerless to change it.
Not necessarily. While it can imply some level of distance between decision-makers and those affected, it doesn't automatically mean those in power are secretive.
The phrase is usually plural, referring to a group or a collective authority, not often to a single individual.
The phrase can be used in both formal and casual settings, but it's often seen in more formal or written communication.
The idiom "powers that be" is a versatile way to talk about people or groups who have some level of authority or control. Whether you're discussing the board members of a company or the leaders of a country, it sums up who's calling the shots.
Here's a quick recap: