Autonomy (self-government) is an ancient term used to describe a person to live by laws one gives to oneself (autonomous). It derives from the Greek word autonomia, which combines the words for self (auto) and law (nomos). Autonomy seems to have gained wide currency only in the second half of the twentieth century.
The contemporary usage figures in two different kinds of political discussions. First, as the property of political units, such as cities, counties, provinces, or states and second, which takes autonomy to be a possible and perhaps desirable feature of the person’s life. The last is therefore particular interest to political philosophers, who often explore the relationship between personal autonomy and government.