Definition of democracy
1a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majorityb : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
2 : a political unit that has a democratic government
3 capitalized : the principles and policies of the Democratic party in the U.S. from emancipation Republicanism to New Deal Democracy — C. M. Roberts
4 : the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority
Examples of democracy in a Sentence
Democracy, I would repeat, is the noblest form of government we have yet evolved … —Norman Mailer, New York Review of Books, 27 Mar. 2002
… this and the economic failures of faithful democracies in places such as India or the Anglophone Caribbean demonstrated conclusively that there was no inherent link between freedom and capitalism … —Orlando Patterson, New Republic, 8 Nov. 1999
Even in democracies today, crucial knowledge is available to only a few individuals … —Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, 1997
The nation has chosen democracy over monarchy.
In a democracy, every citizen should have the right to vote.
The company is not a democracy; decisions are made by a board of directors, not the workers.
There is democracy within the company.
Recent Examples of democracy from the Web
Indeed, in most respects, post-war Germany has been a model democracy.
China could learn much about the benefits of democracy from Hong Kong.
The modern GOP’s grip on federal power depends on these limitations to democracy.
When it is perceived that democracy is lost, that your vote no longer matters, and that your representatives no longer care about what is best for their constituents; then comes the revolution.
Finally, as the world’s two largest democracies, India and the U.S. have a deep stake in strengthening the vibrancy of their own democratic systems as models to secure equality, freedom, and tolerance.
Most people think Washington respects the personal freedoms of Americans, yet there is growing doubt about American-style democracy, in France and Germany, among other countries.
Are millions of Americans ready to start fighting fair for the sake of our democracy?
Inside Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s attack on American democracyPlay Video10:43Live Video Please enable flash to watch this video.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'democracy'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
communism, socialism, capitalism, and democracy
Communism is one of our top all-time lookups, and user comments suggest that’s because it is often used in opaque ways. In some sources, communism is equated with socialism; in others, it is contrasted with democracy and capitalism. Part of this confusion stems from the fact that the word communism has been applied to varying political systems over time. When it was first used in English prose, communism referred to an economic and political theory that advocated the abolition of private property and the common sharing of all resources among a group of people, and it was often used interchangeably with the word socialism by 19th-century writers. The differences between communism and socialism are still debated, but generally English speakers used communism to refer to the political and economic ideologies that find their origin in Karl Marx’s theory of revolutionary socialism, which advocates a proletariat overthrow of capitalist structures within a society, societal and communal ownership and governance of the means of production, and the eventual establishment of a classless society. The most well-known expression of Marx’s theories is the 20th-century Bolshevism of the U.S.S.R., in which the state, through a single authoritarian party, controls a society’s economy and social activities with the goal of realizing Marx’s theories.
Communism is often contrasted with capitalism and democracy, though these can be false equivalencies depending on the usage. Capitalism refers to an economic theory in which a society’s means of production are held by private individuals or organizations, not the government, and where prices, distribution of goods, and products are determined by a free market. It can be contrasted with the economic theories of communism, though the word communism is used of both political and economic theories. Democracy refers to a system of government in which supreme power is vested in the people and exercised through a system of direct or indirect representation which is decided through periodic free elections. Democracy is contrasted with communism primarily because the 20th-century communism of the U.S.S.R. was characterized by an authoritarian government, whereas the democracy of the 20th-century U.S. was characterized by a representative government.
Is the United States a democracy or a republic?
One of the most commonly encountered questions about the word democracy has nothing to do with its spelling or pronunciation, and isn’t even directly related to the meaning of the word itself. That question is “is the United States a democracy or a republic?” The answer to this, as with so many other questions about meaning, may be phrased as some form of “it depends.”
Some people believe that a country calling itself a democracy must be engaged in direct (or pure) democracy, in which the people of a state or region vote directly for policies, rather than elect representatives who make choices on their behalf. People who follow this line of reasoning hold that the United States is more properly described as a republic, using the following definition of that word: ”a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law.”
However, both democracy and republic have more than a single meaning, and one of the definitions we provide for democracy closely resembles the definition of republic given above: “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”
So if someone asks you if the United States is a democracy or a republic, you may safely answer the question with either “both” or “it depends.”
Origin and Etymology of democracy
Middle French democratie, from Late Latin democratia, from Greek dēmokratia, from dēmos + -kratia -cracy
First Known Use: 1539See Words from the same year
DEMOCRACY Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of democracy for English Language Learners
: a form of government in which people choose leaders by voting
: a country ruled by democracy
: an organization or situation in which everyone is treated equally and has equal rights
DEMOCRACY Defined for Kids
Definition of democracy for Students
1 : government by the people : majority rule
2 : government in which the highest power is held by the people and is usually used through representatives
3 : a political unit (as a nation) governed by the people
4 : belief in or practice of the idea that all people are socially equal
Legal Definition of democracy
1a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
2 : a political unit that has a democratic government
democratic\ˌde-mə-ˈkra-tik\ play adjective
Learn More about democracy
See words that rhyme with democracy Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for democracy Spanish Central: Translation of democracy Nglish: Translation of democracy for Spanish speakers Britannica English: Translation of democracy for Arabic speakers Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about democracy
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