ar·​is·​toc·​ra·​cy ˌa-rə-ˈstä-krə-sē How to pronounce aristocracy (audio)
plural aristocracies
: government by the best individuals or by a small privileged class
: a government in which power is vested (see vest entry 2 sense 1a) in a minority consisting of those believed to be best qualified
: a state with such a government
: a governing body or upper class usually made up of a hereditary nobility
a member of the British aristocracy
: 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 But some of the conceits behind that were very interesting, like the British aristocracy being criminal in the essence of controlling land and being able to pass that down for generations. Emily Zemler, Los Angeles Times, 7 Mar. 2024 Her parents were a Russian count and a merchant’s daughter whose massive dowry elevated her to the aristocracy. E.r. Zarevich, Smithsonian Magazine, 12 Mar. 2024 In aristocracies across the globe, rank and title are paramount. Aramide Tinubu, Variety, 5 Mar. 2024 The Spanish colonizers eventually took Mexico’s vanilla to Europe, where it was consumed by the aristocracy and fed a growing craving for hot chocolate. Leila Miller, Los Angeles Times, 5 Feb. 2024 When royal patronage was sharply constricted by the same generation of Britons that had lost America, the throne’s influence atrophied, and the aristocracy essentially consolidated complete control for half a century. Daniel Foster, National Review, 30 Nov. 2023 Throughout its history, it’s been a favorite destination of noble families, aristocracy, and world leaders, including Napoleon Bonaparte and Winston Churchill, and it’s turned beloved celebrities like Greta Garbo and more recently, George and Amal Clooney into regulars. Gabby Shacknai, Forbes, 14 Feb. 2024 Unlike the old-money aristocracy who traced their wealth to their European ancestors, the new rich thrived in industry and flaunted their wealth, much to the old rich’s disgust and chagrin. Chris Vognar, New York Times, 8 Nov. 2023 Top Stories Dan McLaughlin In Saltburn, named for the estate where feckless scion Felix (Jacob Elordi) brings his social-climbing Oxford classmate Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan), Fennell attacks the British aristocracy. Armond White, National Review, 13 Dec. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'aristocracy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1561, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of aristocracy was in 1561

Dictionary Entries Near aristocracy

Cite this Entry

“Aristocracy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ar·​is·​toc·​ra·​cy ˌar-ə-ˈstäk-rə-sē How to pronounce aristocracy (audio)
plural aristocracies
: a government run by a small class of people
: an upper class that is usually based on birth and is richer and more powerful than the rest of society
: persons thought to be better than the rest of the community

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