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 Once, the aristocracy paid for its privileges by riding into battle alongside their king. Ron Grossman,, "Column: A ‘Chicago street-corner boy’ finds himself saddened by an English prince’s funeral," 17 Apr. 2021 In 1978, Lisa Halaby was a kind of royalty in her own right, wealthy and well-schooled, American aristocracy by way of a Lebanese-Syrian immigrant grandfather. Laura King, Los Angeles Times, "Jordan’s royal rift entangles an American-born queen," 6 Apr. 2021 Our aristocracy — sorry, meritocracy — is divided between hand-wringing liberals and militant progressives. Ross Douthat New York Times, Star Tribune, "The 'almost-familiarity' for the U.S. in a story of Germany before the fall," 30 Mar. 2021 The Bellamys, Richard and Lady Marjorie, live there with their two grown children and about a half dozen servants, as the world of London aristocracy changes around them. New York Times, "Nicola Pagett, ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Actress, Dies at 75," 16 Mar. 2021 For a nation built upon a Constitution, rather than upon hereditary aristocracy, the figure of the president must be unlike any king. Maurizio Valsania, The Conversation, "All American presidents have made spectacles of themselves – and there’s nothing wrong with that," 18 Mar. 2021 Per World History Encyclopedia, an economic boom in the 15th century increased demand for handmade crafts, with members of the aristocracy seeking creative ways to display their newfound wealth. Isis Davis-marks, Smithsonian Magazine, "Porcelain Bowl Bought at Yard Sale for $35 Could Sell at Auction for $500,000," 1 Mar. 2021 That heritage, along with the lack of a hereditary aristocracy, is why claims for equal treatment are so deeply rooted in U.S. history. Charles Lipson, WSJ, "‘Equity’ Is a Mandate to Discriminate," 4 Mar. 2021 My mother came from aristocracy, and my dad came from the South Side of Chicago. Ashley Lee Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Meet Anna Shay, the rich, unbothered Angeleno at the top of Netflix’s ‘Bling Empire’," 15 Jan. 2021

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

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The first known use of aristocracy was in 1561

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Last Updated

27 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Aristocracy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for aristocracy



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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