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

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 Fernández is a Peronist—a follower of Juan Domingo Perón, an army officer who rose meteorically to power in the 1940s by enacting policies that benefited poor and working-class Argentines and challenged a powerful aristocracy. Federico Perelmuter, The New Republic, 21 June 2022 The Tang emperors were Confucians, ruling through the aristocracy. Dominic Green, WSJ, 7 June 2022 In celebration of Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee, Sotheby's London is exhibiting nearly 50 tiaras belonging to members of the British royal family and aristocracy. Stellene Volandes, Town & Country, 7 June 2022 Tiaras have again regained their popularity in both popular culture and in the more rarified setting of auction sales where collectors throughout the world are paying increasingly higher prices for these objects of royalty and aristocracy. Anthony Demarco, Forbes, 18 May 2022 Tiaras belonging to the families of British dukes, earls, and other members of the aristocracy have been dusted off from their safes to be shown at the auction house’s galleries in May and June. Victoria Murphy, Town & Country, 13 Apr. 2022 Like Downton, Upstairs, Downstairs starts off in the beginning of the 20th Century and follows the fall of the aristocracy during a three-decade period. ELLE, 30 Oct. 2021 Her existence is a mystery seeped in a tale of bloody retribution against her oppressors, a hellish supernatural nightscape and an uprising against the deceitful aristocracy. Patrick Frater, Variety, 21 May 2022 George’s grandmother Queen Victoria had ruled a country largely governed by its landed aristocracy. Washington Post, 28 Jan. 2022 See More

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.

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

Learn More About aristocracy

Time Traveler for aristocracy

Time Traveler

The first known use of aristocracy was in 1561

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near aristocracy




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for aristocracy

Last Updated

26 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Aristocracy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Jul. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for aristocracy


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

More from Merriam-Webster on aristocracy

Nglish: Translation of aristocracy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of aristocracy for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about aristocracy


Test Your Vocabulary

Words Named After People

  • name tags
  • Namesake of the leotard, Jules Léotard had what profession?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!