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noun bu·reau·cra·cy \byu̇-ˈrä-krə-sē, byə-, byər-ˈä-\

Simple Definition of bureaucracy

  • : a large group of people who are involved in running a government but who are not elected

  • : a system of government or business that has many complicated rules and ways of doing things

Full Definition of bureaucracy

plural bu·reau·cra·cies

  1. 1 a :  a body of nonelective government officials b :  an administrative policy-making group

  2. 2 :  government characterized by specialization of functions, adherence to fixed rules, and a hierarchy of authority

  3. 3 :  a system of administration marked by officialism, red tape, and proliferation

Examples of bureaucracy

  1. As Europe slipped deeper into the war, the uranium panel twiddled its thumbs. It was so mired in bureaucracy that by the spring of 1940, it had managed to approve only the $6,000 in research funds earmarked for Fermi and Szilard, so they could purchase uranium and graphite for their fission experiments. —Jennet Conant, Tuxedo Park, 2002

  2. In recent books and articles a small but outspoken chorus of former CIA case officers has portrayed the once proudly swashbuckling agency as a timid, politically correct bureaucracy, overly concerned with being held to account by the press and Capitol Hill. —Evan Thomas, Newsweek, 29 Apr. 2002

  3. Proving that even lumbering federal bureaucracies can move quickly when they have to, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last week took advantage of Congress' extended holiday break to introduce its long-awaited—and, perhaps, long-dreaded—ergonomic standards. —Editor & Publisher, 27 Nov. 1999

  4. She was fed up with all the red tape and bureaucracy.

  5. Both candidates pledge to simplify the state's bloated bureaucracy.

Origin of bureaucracy

French bureaucratie, from bureau + -cratie -cracy

First Known Use: 1818

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February 8, 2016

to clear from accusation or blame

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