I was going through a document which said,

"... is Autonomous and independent"

I read the meanings and both are almost similar. Though I know there is a subtle difference in usage.

Can anyone clear out the exact usage and tell that particular subtle difference?

  • Well, there's a tautology if ever I saw two! However, I believe that "autonomy" requires absolute, external influence, whereas "independency" (somewhat confusingly) is associated with a degree of dependency.
    – Anonymous
    Feb 14, 2018 at 15:59

2 Answers 2


'Autonomous' means 'self-directed'. Auto - nomy. From the Greek 'autos' - self, and 'nomos' - law. It means that your drive to act comes from inside yourself.

'Independent' means 'not influenced by outside forces'. It is from the french 'in' - not, and 'dependant' - hanging from. It means 'not hanging from' - or 'not dependent on' anything.

So although the meaning is similar, it is different, as you say.


  • He is completely autonomous as a freelancer and defines his own programme.

  • The child is able to play autonomously - she makes up her own games.

  • The freelancer is independent of any company - no-one tells him what to do.

  • The child is able to play independently - without her parents' supervision.


  • Autonomous - self directed

  • Independent - not needing or not influenced by others

Comment: it's always really interesting, I feel, to look up the etymology of words when wanting to understand them. The etymology depicts their origin, as well as the constructing words they are made from - and is often more accurate and easier to understand than reading the 'definitions' of the words - which are often more like 'interpretations of the words, in use' rather than being the very original meaning. The etymology goes more to the source and often reveals the history of the word as well, which the word will often carry, as part of its cultural meaning, and this I think is so useful and rich, and clear, when writing and expressing oneself.



Lastly, to come back to your question example - 'is autonomous and independent' means:

  • is self-directed and not influenced by others
  • Many thanks Jelila for your very useful instruction and expalantion. I really enjoyed it.
    – S M M
    Nov 14, 2018 at 7:12

The first meaning of Autonomy is similar to independence

However: Difference between autonomy and independence

This difference between autonomy and independence can be understood as follows. Autonomy is the state of being self-governed. On the other hand, independence is the state of not being dependent on another. The concept of independence implies a rejection of rules and regulations but this is not the case in autonomy. This is the key difference between autonomy and independence.

So this means that independence is something that is "not depending" on another thing, this is why the adjective form is used in common language, "I like to be independent", meaning I like to run my own life. I don't want to depend on anyone.

Autonomous is usually used in a unique way, I am on my own, I am autonomous, the adjective used being "autonomous government". There is no comparison, it is alone, yes it is the case that it is "independent", but in the case of autonomy, it is "independent from everything".

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