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

Example Sentences

a member of the aristocracy at one time in China only the aristocracy could own land
Recent Examples on the Web In schools, a vernacular curriculum for the emergent middle and commercial classes had started to compete with the classical curriculum, the birthright of the aristocracy. Merve Emre, The New Yorker, 16 Jan. 2023 In this autobiography, the Queen's cousin details her life in the Scottish aristocracy. Lauren Said-moorhouse, CNN, 10 Jan. 2023 Because of this, many members of the aristocracy blamed Rasputin for the tsar’s decaying power. Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, Discover Magazine, 27 Oct. 2022 And Lord Peter Wimsey—scion of the aristocracy; military hero; buoyant connoisseur of wine, rare books, piano music, and women—is on the hunt for his next beguiling case. Talya Zax, The Atlantic, 3 Feb. 2023 Leopold grew up making glass eyes and costume jewelry, as well as glass orchids for the aristocracy. Jonathon Keats, Discover Magazine, 2 May 2016 Both are really about the demise of an old world—Titanic using the sinking of that mighty boat as a metaphor for Victorian aristocracy's decline, Dielman finding a microcosm for a burgeoning feminist revolution in one woman's slow-motion awakening. A.a. Dowd, Chron, 9 Feb. 2023 The first follows Daphne Bridgerton, whose straightforward personality has deemed her unsuitable for the aristocracy's love games. Town & Country, 6 Feb. 2023 As a protégé of Diana Vreeland and the epitome of sartorial aristocracy, Talley brought his inimitable love for grandeur as an editor-at-large to the pages of Vogue for four decades. Rachel Silva, ELLE Decor, 24 Jan. 2023 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.

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 21 Mar. 2023.

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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