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 Adams & Butler owner Siobhan Byrne Learat, also on T+L’s A-List, can even arrange for interactions with Irish and British aristocracy — grouse shooting with the Earl of Erne, anyone? Travel + Leisure, "How to Plan the Perfect European Villa Vacation," 15 May 2020 What these changes augur, in his view, is the crystallization of a caste system in the United States and the birth of a new aristocracy. Kanishk Tharoor, The New Republic, "The Exclusivity Economy," 21 Apr. 2020 His remarkable study on the German aristocracy and the Nazis, Vom König zum Führer (2003), thronged with aristocratic collaborators but left the Hohenzollern prince on the margins. David Motadel, The New York Review of Books, "Helping Hitler: An Exchange," 24 Mar. 2020 Weegee, Lisette Model, Gordon Parks, and Antony Armstrong-Jones — better known as the Earl of Snowdon to those whose idea of aristocracy extends beyond Duke, Count, and that other Earl, Hines., "Three jazz photography shows where what you see is what you hear - The Boston Globe," 18 Oct. 2019 Town & Country reported that, per biographer de Courcy, the royal family approved of the union, despite Armstrong-Jones not being a member of the aristocracy. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones' Full Relationship Timeline," 18 Nov. 2019 The show charted the highs and lows of the British upper class during the period, including the scandal of illicit romances, the impact of World War I and the dwindling power of the aristocracy alongside the rise of the middle class. Matthew Robinson, CNN, "'Downton Abbey' stars arrive for world premiere of movie spin-off," 9 Sep. 2019 Recent royal births, weddings, and Netflix’s The Crown have all inspired renewed interest in the monarchy and British aristocracy. National Geographic, "On the rise: 20 trending destinations for 2020," 29 Jan. 2020 Canada’s successes are unfortunately overshadowed by its many failures — failures that continue for the most part unchallenged by a political aristocracy that has evolved over successive generations., "IT’S NOT THE image Americans would associate with a Canadian federal election: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his bespoke suit stretched tight by hefty and conspicuous body armor, surrounded by a phalanx of bug-eyed uniformed tactical officers.," 26 Oct. 2019

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

22 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Aristocracy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for aristocracy


How to pronounce aristocracy (audio)

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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