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

: 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

plural bu·reau·cra·cies

Full Definition of BUREAUCRACY

a :  a body of nonelective government officials
b :  an administrative policy-making group
:  government characterized by specialization of functions, adherence to fixed rules, and a hierarchy of authority
:  a system of administration marked by officialism, red tape, and proliferation


  1. She was fed up with all the red tape and bureaucracy.
  2. Both candidates pledge to simplify the state's bloated bureaucracy.
  3. 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


French bureaucratie, from bureau + -cratie -cracy
First Known Use: 1818

Other Government and Politics Terms

agent provocateur, agitprop, autarky, cabal, egalitarianism, federalism, hegemony, plenipotentiary, popular sovereignty, socialism


Next Word in the Dictionary: bureaucratPrevious Word in the Dictionary: bureauAll Words Near: bureaucracy
July 06, 2015
categorical Hear it
absolute or relating to a category
Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!
How to use a word that (literally) drives some people nuts.
Test your vocab with our fun, fast game
Ailurophobia, and 9 other unusual fears