bu·​reau·​crat | \ ˈbyu̇r-ə-ˌkrat How to pronounce bureaucrat (audio) , ˈbyər- \

Definition of bureaucrat

: a member of a bureaucracy government bureaucrats

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In French, a bureau is a desk, so bureaucracy means basically "government by people at desks". Despite the bad-mouthing they often get, partly because they usually have to stick so close to the rules, bureaucrats do almost all the day-to-day work that keeps a government running. The idea of a bureaucracy is to split up the complicated task of governing a large country into smaller jobs that can be handled by specialists. Bureaucratic government is nothing new; the Roman empire had an enormous and complex bureaucracy, with the bureaucrats at lower levels reporting to bureaucrats above them, and so on up to the emperor himself.

Examples of bureaucrat in a Sentence

the bureaucrats at the town hall seem to think that we need a building permit to build a tree house
Recent Examples on the Web Santiago Mitre’s new drama, competing in Venice, examines the landmark case from the perspective of its lead prosecutor, casting the story as that of a bureaucrat rising to a historic moment. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, 4 Sep. 2022 En route, the book offers us a gripping overview of humankind’s seemingly unstoppable evolution from primitive but harmless nomad to the rapacious bureaucrat in charge of civic planning in your neighborhood today. Elizabeth Lowry, WSJ, 5 Aug. 2022 During the Early Modern period, Haigh observes, office took on another meaning too: a position held by a bureaucrat such as a magistrate, whose work was carried out in an official building. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, 6 July 2022 On Friday, he is expected to return to the city to preside over the inauguration of John Lee, a former policeman and bureaucrat, as Hong Kong’s new leader. WSJ, 30 June 2022 Here, Hamm plays a no-nonsense bureaucrat in this satire of corporate mores. Rebecca Rubin, Variety, 8 June 2022 Apparently some cranky cosmic bureaucrat in charge of business conditions woke up the next morning with a truly epic hangover. Geoff Colvin, Fortune, 27 May 2022 When China tapped career bureaucrat Carrie Lam to become Hong Kong’s top official in 2017, she was widely viewed as a conciliatory figure, pledging to heal divisions surrounding the city’s pro-democracy struggles. Natasha Khan, WSJ, 4 Apr. 2022 Part bureaucrat, part counselor, much of Bill’s life revolves around Zoom calls and subcommittees, government acronyms and grant applications. Jose A. Del Real, Washington Post, 23 May 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bureaucrat.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of bureaucrat

1832, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bureaucrat

borrowed from French bureaucrate, after bureaucratie — more at bureaucracy, -crat

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The first known use of bureaucrat was in 1832

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Last Updated

18 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Bureaucrat.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bureaucrat. Accessed 2 Oct. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on bureaucrat

Nglish: Translation of bureaucrat for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bureaucrat for Arabic Speakers


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