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Having a head bishop who is not responsible to any higher-ranking ecclesiastical authority. Used of churches in the Eastern Orthodox communion.
[From Byzantine Greek autokephalos : auto-, auto- + kephalos, head; see ghebh-el- in Indo-European roots.]
au′to·ceph′a·ly (-lē) n.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1. (Eastern Church (Greek & Russian Orthodox)) (of an Eastern Christian Church) governed by its own national synods and appointing its own patriarchs or prelates
2. (Ecclesiastical Terms) (of a bishop) independent of any higher governing body
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
au•to•ceph•a•lous(ˌɔ təˈsɛf ə ləs)
1. (of an Eastern church) having its own head bishop, though in communion with other Orthodox churches.
2. (of an Eastern bishop) subordinate to no superior authority.
[1860–65; < Late Greek autoképhalos having its own head]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.