Authoritarian (n.)(a.) - The authorized author of authority.
History & Etymology
The word authoritarian is a great example of how a suffix can completely change the feeling and tone of a word. The word authoritarian ultimately goes back to an old word for “author” auctor, which was borrowed from Old French.
In the mid 14th century when the word “auctor” was borrowed it referred to someone who had begun something. It could refer to “father, creator, one who brings about, or one who makes or creates,” and by the late 14th century the definition had narrowed to the point where it “author” is today. Meaning “a writer, or even a composer of music.”
The same latin root that we get “author” from “auctor” is the same one we get “authoritarian” from. It started with the Old French word for “authority”, “auctorité.”
In the 1200s the word “auctorite” primarily referred to scripture or other texts that were treated as true or are to be obeyed or followed. It was first used to refer to a person in the case of a witness in court proceedings, and it wasn’t until the 14 century that it gained the meaning of a person who is to be obeyed or followed.
And finally the -ian suffix was added in 1859 when the word was used to refer to someone who advocates for imposed order over personal freedom.