cro·​ny·​ism ˈkrō-nē-ˌi-zəm How to pronounce cronyism (audio)
: partiality to cronies especially as evidenced in the appointment of political hangers-on to office without regard to their qualifications

Did you know?

"Forsake not an old friend; for the new is not comparable to him" (Ecclesiasticus 9:10). Practitioners of cronyism would probably agree. The word cronyism evolved in the 19th century as a spin-off of crony, meaning "friend" or "pal." Crony originated in England in the 17th century, perhaps as a play on the Greek word chronios, meaning "long-lasting," from chronos, meaning "time." Nineteenth-century cronyism was simply friendship, or the ability to make friends. The word didn't turn bad until the next century, when Americans starting using cronyism to refer to the act of playing political favorites.

Examples of cronyism in a Sentence

The mayor has been accused of cronyism.
Recent Examples on the Web Almost every organization with more than a few people is subject to cronyism, and a bad or insecure leader intent on holding onto power by installing yes people in crucial roles can thwart the aspirations of good employees. Philip Martin, Arkansas Online, 5 Sep. 2023 Expertise, not cronyism, is needed to determine which strategies are most likely to lead to meaningful gains. Time, 23 Aug. 2023 This dynamic distorts the labor market and inhibits investment in education, promotes cronyism, and blocks genuine reform. Steffen Hertog, Foreign Affairs, 22 Aug. 2023 Now the Knesset, with its right-wing majority, has passed a law eliminating this power, and legal experts warn that a rise in cronyism and corruption is likely. Ruth Margalit, The New Yorker, 30 July 2023 Standardized exams are important for gauging technical knowledge and limiting opportunities for cronyism, but Wu and the City Council should find a way to give Cox freer rein, knowing that Boston’s police unions will likely resist. Neil Gross,, 6 July 2023 Allegations of cronyism abounded, bombshell reporting came with a steady cadence, but his polling continued to depict him as a real contender. Philip Elliott, Time, 13 July 2023 The arbitrary fashion in which the federal government applied Too Big to Fail in 2008 stank of cronyism. Amity Shlaes, National Review, 10 July 2023 Yellow’s loan, which was awarded as part of the $2.2 trillion pandemic relief legislation that Congress passed in 2020, had raised questions of cronyism from the beginning. Alan Rappeport, New York Times, 27 June 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1840, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cronyism was in 1840


Dictionary Entries Near cronyism

Cite this Entry

“Cronyism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on cronyism

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!