ar·​is·​toc·​ra·​cy | \ˌa-rə-ˈstä-krə-sē, 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

Forward-thinking though his prose may have been, English writer Evelyn Waugh was a man who loved to look backward—at his debauched youth, at his spiritual journey, and at the erosion of the aristocracy, among other things. Adrienne Westenfeld, Town & Country, "T&C Family Album: Evelyn Waugh," 27 Mar. 2014 People with that background these days are, no matter their color or economic level, almost American aristocracy. Peggy Noonan, WSJ, "Melania’s Misstep and Michelle’s Mystery," 15 Nov. 2018 Spencer, who is a member of British aristocracy, is not in line to the throne. Stephanie Nolasco, Fox News, "Princess Diana's niece shocks in controversial photo shoot wearing marijuana necklace," 30 Aug. 2018 Camilla's Mother, Rosalind (Cubitt) Shand Camilla's mom was the daughter of Roland Cubitt, a notable member of British aristocracy. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Camilla Parker Bowles's Parents Didn't Like the Idea of Their Daughter Marrying Prince Charles," 19 July 2018 College football has an entrenched aristocracy that gobbles up all the national titles: the last time a team won it all for the first time was Florida, in 1996. New York Times, "Ten March Madness Myths About Your N.C.A.A. Bracket," 12 Mar. 2018 Michael Middleton Michael Francis Middleton was born in Leeds to a wealthy Yorkshire family with blood ties to the British aristocracy. Corynne Cirilli, Town & Country, "Everything You Need to Know About the Middleton Family," 8 May 2018 The European aristocracy is dying out after the Great War. Kerry Reid,, "Kokandy stages a jazzy, grand musical farewell in the Berlin-set 'Grand Hotel'," 24 Apr. 2018 Her sister-in-law and frenemy in court, Grand Duchess Pavlovna, aka Miechen, epitomizes the aristocracy and provides the perfect foil for Maria – until her son Nicholas, a weak and eventually ineffective tsar, weds the German princess Alix of Hesse. Mary Cadden, USA TODAY, "Empress Maria heads juicy Russian cast in historical novel about the Romanovs," 12 July 2018

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

Share aristocracy

Statistics for aristocracy

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for aristocracy

The first known use of aristocracy was in 1561

See more words from the same year

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 \
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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on aristocracy

What made you want to look up aristocracy? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


having a pattern of small flowers

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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