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 My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown, by Anne Glenconner (March 24) Fans of The Crown and royal weddings will love this insider account of the lives of the British aristocracy. Jeva Lange, TheWeek, "19 books to read in 2020," 7 Jan. 2020 Shah Shuja sought asylum in Mrauk U. Hundreds of his soldiers became bodyguards of the Arakan aristocracy. Joshua Hammer, Smithsonian, "The Hidden City of Myanmar," 21 Nov. 2019 Her family was Georgian aristocracy (the current president of Georgia is a cousin). Robert Gottlieb, New York Times, "Emmanuel Carrère’s Disconcertingly Personal and Utterly Gripping Prose," 12 Dec. 2019 The wealthy and the aristocracy even starting using his travel agency when travelling to more exotic destinations, such as Egypt. Stephanie Decker, Quartz, "Historians are fighting to save Thomas Cook’s enormous archive," 2 Oct. 2019 Sickness & shame will overcome you as your whole life sinks into that created by someone else, ruled by a new country & the English aristocracy & its helpless ways, by surrender of something beautifully old-fashioned & New England & pure in you. Thomas Mallon, The New Yorker, "Marriage, Betrayal, and the Letters Behind “The Dolphin”," 9 Dec. 2019 The transformation of Yale, along with the other Ivies and the prep schools, marked the ceding of power from a hereditary aristocracy to something that likes to think of itself as a meritocracy. Doug Henwood, Harper's magazine, "To Serve Is to Rule," 28 Oct. 2019 No, nor any of the characters who have done more to resurrect a love for the aristocracy since the halcyon days of Princess Diana. Los Angeles Times, "Column: ‘Downton Abbey’s’ shift from TV show to movie: dream date or a dark ride?," 20 Sep. 2019 When industrialisation threatened to establish an aristocracy like those across the Atlantic, the social backlash was prompt and decisive. The Economist, "In the past, America was not as unequal as it has become," 24 Oct. 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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Time Traveler for aristocracy

Time Traveler

The first known use of aristocracy was in 1561

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Statistics for aristocracy

Last Updated

31 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Aristocracy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for aristocracy


How to pronounce aristocracy (audio)

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 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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