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: the highest social class in some countries : the people who have special titles (such as duke and duchess ), who typically own land, and who traditionally have more money and power than the other people in a society
Full Definition of ARISTOCRACY
: government by the best individuals or by a small privileged class
a: a government in which power is vested in a minority consisting of those believed to be best qualified
b: a state with such a government
: a governing body or upper class usually made up of a hereditary nobility
Originally, leadership by a small privileged class or a minority thought to be best qualified to lead. Plato and Aristotle considered aristocrats to be those who are morally and intellectually superior, and therefore fit to govern in the interests of the people. The term has come to mean the upper layer of a stratified group. Most aristocracies have been hereditary, and many European societies stratified their aristocratic classes by formally titling their members, thereby making the term roughly synonymous with nobility. See alsooligarchy.