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

Keep scrolling for more

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 The 1896 Games in Athens, the first Olympics of the modern age, lasted two weeks and had a Eurocentric air of entitled aristocracy. New York Times, 15 July 2021 In the summer of 1936, for the first time since forever, hundreds of thousands of French factory workers took to the beach and enjoyed their vacation, a privilege previously reserved to the bourgeoisie and aristocracy. Xiaofei Xu, CNN, 5 July 2021 It’s a true-ish tale of social class in which blue-collar people form a syndicate to breed and train a stallion, Dream Alliance, in hopes of showing the aristocracy of British racing what a strong heart and noble spirit can do. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, 20 May 2021 For the past few years, the tech aristocracy in California has turned its attention to promoting guaranteed income projects. Michael Bernick, Forbes, 2 June 2021 The liberation of the poor by the central government from the tyranny of the regional aristocracy necessitated the destruction of those local and regional power centers that consolidated regional power in the first place. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, 1 May 2021 Within the hermetic world of Roman aristocracy, the Torlonia clan has always stood apart. Ingrid D. Rowland, The New York Review of Books, 27 Apr. 2021 Demand soared and there was a wealth of interest and commissions coming through the Emanuel’s small studio, from a stellar list of celebrity and aristocracy, but a PR request from Vogue was about to change everything. Kate Hardcastle, Forbes, 19 May 2021 The reason that the French aristocracy once ate ortolans is probably similar to the reason that monkey brains would have been served at royal banquets in China. Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker, 10 May 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About aristocracy

Time Traveler for aristocracy

Time Traveler

The first known use of aristocracy was in 1561

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near aristocracy




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for aristocracy

Last Updated

1 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“Aristocracy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Aug. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!