aristocracy

noun
ar·​is·​toc·​ra·​cy | \ ˌa-rə-ˈstä-krə-sē How to pronounce aristocracy (audio) , ˌer-ə-\
plural aristocracies

Definition of aristocracy

1 : government by the best individuals or by a small privileged class
2a : a government in which power is vested (see vest entry 2 sense 1a) in a minority consisting of those believed to be best qualified
b : a state with such a government
3 : a governing body or upper class usually made up of a hereditary nobility a member of the British aristocracy
4 : a class or group of people believed to be superior (as in rank, wealth, or intellect) an intellectual aristocracy

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Examples of aristocracy in a Sentence

a member of the aristocracy at one time in China only the aristocracy could own land

Recent Examples on the Web

First the aristocracy, then the middle and upper classes participated in a movement to document their living spaces, and the design, architecture and furniture of their homes and estates. Elizabeth Pash, House Beautiful, "Why You Need to Start Collecting Interior Drawings," 19 Apr. 2019 On March 30, royalty, aristocracy, dignitaries, and film stars fluttered into the Salle des Etoiles, Monaco’s premiere event venue. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "When Royalty Mingled With an Italian Elvis: Inside Bal de la Rose, Monaco’s Most Glamorous Night," 4 Apr. 2019 While the original satirized the treachery of French aristocracy during the Ancien Régime, its ’90s counterpart tackles the insular world of Manhattan’s prep schools and Upper East Side. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Cruel Intentions Is Still a Teenage Fashion Dream 20 Years On," 22 Mar. 2019 Kate is not of the aristocracy, and that was taken for granted. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "How Princess Margaret Paved the Way for the Younger Generation of Royals," 16 Feb. 2019 Wealth inequality has increased more in this decade than any other in American history, while economic mobility has done the opposite, as Matthew Stewart writes in an Atlantic article about the new American aristocracy. Jen Doll, Harper's BAZAAR, "Why Does It Feel Like Everyone Has More Money Than You?," 12 Feb. 2019 Casely-Hayford was a scion of the African aristocracy—one who rebelled against it. Luke Leitch, Vogue, "Joe Casely-Hayford, the British Fashion Designer, Dies at 62," 3 Jan. 2019 In recent years, many Cuban artists and performers have become members of a new aristocracy, able to earn hard currency and travel off-island at will. Santiago Pérez, WSJ, "‘Absolute Control’: Cuba Steps Up Artistic Censorship," 25 Dec. 2018 An edict issued by King Henry VIII of England in 1517, for example, dictated the maximum number of dishes allowed at a meal: nine for a cardinal, seven for the aristocracy and three for the gentry. Amanda Foreman, WSJ, "Unenforceable Laws Against Pleasure," 24 Jan. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'aristocracy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of aristocracy

1561, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for aristocracy

Middle French & Late Latin; Middle French aristocratie, from Late Latin aristocratia, from Greek aristokratia, from aristos best + -kratia -cracy

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Statistics for aristocracy

Last Updated

9 May 2019

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Time Traveler for aristocracy

The first known use of aristocracy was in 1561

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More Definitions for aristocracy

aristocracy

noun

English Language Learners Definition of aristocracy

: 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

aristocracy

noun
ar·​is·​toc·​ra·​cy | \ ˌer-ə-ˈstä-krə-sē How to pronounce aristocracy (audio) \
plural aristocracies

Kids Definition of aristocracy

1 : a government that is run by a small class of people
2 : an upper class that is usually based on birth and is richer and more powerful than the rest of a society
3 : people thought of as being better than the rest of the community

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Comments on aristocracy

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