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

Did you know?

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 Nor was this wholly backroom work, done furtively by nameless bureaucrats in windowless ministries. Daniel Immerwahr, The New Yorker, 13 Nov. 2023 But the country and its future prosperity require them to mount a vigorous opposition to this massive transfer of power from private innovators to public bureaucrats. James Freeman, WSJ, 30 Oct. 2023 Arnold Diaz, a brash investigative reporter at three New York City television stations who brought righteous passion to segments that shamed con artists, business owners, scammers, government bureaucrats and others who ripped off consumers, died on Oct. 24 in Greenwich, Conn. Richard Sandomir, New York Times, 1 Nov. 2023 The list included phone numbers belonging to opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, journalists, senior bureaucrats and Supreme Court judges, The Washington Post found in a joint investigation with the Forbidden Stories journalism nonprofit. Gerry Shih, Washington Post, 31 Oct. 2023 Getting old is hard enough without having to box bureaucrats. Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times, 7 Oct. 2023 Fox News Digital reported last year on a German bureaucrat, Michael Blume, assigned to combat antisemitism who was classified as antisemitic by the experts from the Wiesenthal Center for stoking hatred against Jews and Israel. Benjamin Weinthal, Fox News, 23 Oct. 2023 At least the federal bureaucrats’ boss has to face the voters every four years. Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, 20 Oct. 2023 Throughout the 20th century, politicians, bureaucrats, and the media continuously described America’s taking of Native land as being good for Indigenous people. TIME, 5 Oct. 2023 See More

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 2 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


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

More from Merriam-Webster on bureaucrat

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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