ar·​is·​toc·​ra·​cy | \ˌa-rə-ˈstä-krə-sē, 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

College football has an entrenched aristocracy that gobbles up all the national titles: the last time a team won it all for the first time was Florida, in 1996. New York Times, "Ten March Madness Myths About Your N.C.A.A. Bracket," 12 Mar. 2018 Michael Middleton Michael Francis Middleton was born in Leeds to a wealthy Yorkshire family with blood ties to the British aristocracy. Corynne Cirilli, Town & Country, "Everything You Need to Know About the Middleton Family," 8 May 2018 The European aristocracy is dying out after the Great War. Kerry Reid,, "Kokandy stages a jazzy, grand musical farewell in the Berlin-set 'Grand Hotel'," 24 Apr. 2018 Her sister-in-law and frenemy in court, Grand Duchess Pavlovna, aka Miechen, epitomizes the aristocracy and provides the perfect foil for Maria – until her son Nicholas, a weak and eventually ineffective tsar, weds the German princess Alix of Hesse. Mary Cadden, USA TODAY, "Empress Maria heads juicy Russian cast in historical novel about the Romanovs," 12 July 2018 Liberals, who decry entrenched privilege at home, seem strangely OK with a British aristocracy that conveys titles and estates through bloodlines. Heather Souvaine Horn, The New Republic, "Donald Trump, Meghan Markle, and America’s enduring obsession with the British royals," 12 July 2018 Set among the backdrop of the family’s Edwardian English country home, the show’s 52 episodes revealed the nuances of an era in which the aristocracy defined life in England. Amanda Svachula, New York Times, "‘Downton Abbey’ Movie Is on the Way," 13 July 2018 For the aristocracy in particular, upholding this old-school fashion remains part of family tradition. Raisa Bruner, Time, "Here's Why Prince George Always Wears Shorts," 23 Apr. 2018 Baronet is a rank in the British aristocracy, albeit below dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, and barons. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "Everything We Know About Jack Brooksbank's Family Ahead of the Royal Wedding," 12 June 2018

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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7 Nov 2018

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The first known use of aristocracy was in 1561

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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


ar·​is·​toc·​ra·​cy | \ˌer-ə-ˈstä-krə-sē \
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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by force of circumstances

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