bu·​reau·​crat ˈbyu̇r-ə-ˌkrat How to pronounce bureaucrat (audio)
: 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 But the Biden administration seems to think that bureaucrats know how to grow the economy better than entrepreneurs. Tom Hebert, National Review, 10 May 2024 This steady slide towards tyranny, meted out by militarized local and federal police and legalistic bureaucrats, has been carried forward by each successive president over the past fifty years regardless of their political affiliation. Nisha Whitehead, Orange County Register, 7 May 2024 Interference by progressive bureaucrats and legislatures has leveled a disastrous impact on our economy and housing market. Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, 15 Mar. 2024 Smyth was an American physicist, diplomat, and bureaucrat who was instrumental in the early development of nuclear energy. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 5 Mar. 2024 Ashok Lavasa, a top bureaucrat in India, the head of the national election commission, had written a book about his father. Hazlitt, 28 Feb. 2024 The fact that the small-time local bureaucrat — and not the investors or the lawyers — had suffered the most severely spoke to the real-life consequences of financial fraud, which often seems so abstract and opaque. Jesse Barron, New York Times, 9 Feb. 2024 Senate President Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, said in a statement that Hobbs ultimately sided with bureaucrats instead of Arizonans. Stacey Barchenger, The Arizona Republic, 18 Mar. 2024 On their paradoxical mission to help the Nigerian state by proving how corrupt its bureaucrats really were, the agents were accused of coloring outside the lines of the law. Jesse Barron, New York Times, 9 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bureaucrat.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1832, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bureaucrat was in 1832

Dictionary Entries Near bureaucrat

Cite this Entry

“Bureaucrat.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bureaucrat. Accessed 22 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


bu·​reau·​crat ˈbyu̇r-ə-ˌkrat How to pronounce bureaucrat (audio)
: a member of a bureaucracy

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