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 This delightful memoir by Lady Anne Glenconner, now 90, offers a candid glimpse of the royal family and the British aristocracy. Wsj Books Staff, WSJ, 13 Sep. 2022 Homes captures the flora and fauna of America’s aristocracy with exquisite precision. Ron Charles, Washington Post, 13 Sep. 2022 But there were always controls, in the form of a czarist dynasty with a traditional aristocracy, or a Communist Party with a collegial Politburo, to moderate the behavior of the person at the top. Fred Weir, The Christian Science Monitor, 4 Mar. 2022 Their client roster, a who’s who of American aristocracy, included Jackie and John F. Kennedy, Babe and Bill Paley, and Betsey and Jock Whitney. James Reginato, Town & Country, 5 July 2022 There was no finery, no inkling its grounds had once been the playground of American aristocracy. Joy Callaway, WSJ, 2 June 2022 Each country has its elite clubs that, together, form a sort of pan-European aristocracy—clubs that, traditionally, have been able to acquire the sport’s best players in their quest for the ultimate prize: the Champions League. Tom Mctague, The Atlantic, 28 May 2022 Historians trace the libel law bias in favor of the rich and powerful to the British aristocracy, which wanted to keep unflattering news out of the press. David Segal, New York Times, 29 Mar. 2022 This year, there are two new breeds eligible for the award: the Mudi, a Herding group dog from Hungary, and the Russian toy, a small competitor in the Toy group once popular among the Russian aristocracy. Zoe Sottile, CNN, 18 June 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

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The first known use of aristocracy was in 1561

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Last Updated

18 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Aristocracy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2022.

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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


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