A potentate (from the Latin potens, "powerful') is a person with potent, sometimes supreme, power. It is synonymous with 'dictator,' meaning 'A ruler who is unconstrained by law.' In modern English, the term is used to describe people with much political or business power.
The term is used by some translations of the Bible to describe God, it can be found in the King James Version translation of 1 Timothy 6:15. One example of this use is in the hymn "Crown him with many crowns" in which Jesus is described as "potentate of time"
Originally, it designated the absolute monarch (synonymous with autocrat, which was also used as a title) of a great state. From the negative connotations of such rule, mainly in the Orient, derives its generalized use for the head of any totalitarian and/or abusive regime, as a synonym for despot, dictator, or tyrant (all three in the modern, derogatory sense, contrary to a rather lofty historical origin), also at a sub-state level, or even a big boss in private life.
It is the title used by the A.A.O.N.M.S. (Shriners) for the head of a local Shrine chapter. The head of the Shriners of North America is titled the Imperial Potentate. The staff and volunteers of the ISA (International Instrumentation Symposium) are also called potentates.