democracy

noun
de·​moc·​ra·​cy | \ di-ˈmä-krə-sē How to pronounce democracy (audio) \
plural democracies

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
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
5 : the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges

Frequently Asked Questions About democracy

Is the United States a democracy or a republic?

The United States is both a democracy and a republic. Democracies and republics are both forms of government in which supreme power resides in the citizens. The word republic refers specifically to a government in which those citizens elect representatives who govern according to the law. The word democracy can refer to this same kind of representational government, or it can refer instead to what is also called a direct democracy, in which the citizens themselves participate in the act of governing directly.

What is the basic meaning of democracy?

The word democracy most often refers to a form of government in which people choose leaders by voting.

What is a democratic system of government?

A democratic system of government is a form of government in which supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodic free elections.

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Their family members and siblings have been also proclaimed winners in local posts, reflecting the strong grip of political dynasties on the Southeast Asian democracy despite a constitutional prohibition that was never enforced. Jim Gomez, BostonGlobe.com, 13 May 2022 Their family members and siblings have been also proclaimed winners in local posts, reflecting the strong grip of political dynasties on the Southeast Asian democracy despite a constitutional prohibition that was never enforced. Jim Gomez, ajc, 13 May 2022 Our very democracy and our ability to solve the problems all our people face is in grave danger. Maya Wiley, The New Republic, 13 May 2022 Or a better time to continue to remind people that our democracy is literally hanging on by a thread. Andy Meek, Forbes, 7 May 2022 From the vast distance of 50 years, the events of Watergate seem a tame precursor to the assaults on democracy that America faces today. Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press, 24 Apr. 2022 The usual suspects are hyping this as a GOP attack on democracy and the American way. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 18 Apr. 2022 Here at home, a flurry of new details in recent days about the ex-President’s behavior justifies continued investigations into the worst attack on American democracy in decades. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 29 Mar. 2022 Like many who track extremism, especially of the religious variety, Laser sees the recent wave of anti-gay legislation as an attack on democracy. Los Angeles Times, 24 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of democracy

1539, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for democracy

borrowed from Middle French democracie, democratie, borrowed from Late Latin dēmocratia, borrowed from Greek dēmokratía, from dēmo- demo- + -kratia -cracy

Learn More About democracy

Time Traveler for democracy

Time Traveler

The first known use of democracy was in 1539

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near democracy

demobilize

democracy

democrat

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for democracy

Last Updated

17 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Democracy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/democracy. Accessed 26 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for democracy

democracy

noun
de·​moc·​ra·​cy | \ di-ˈmä-krə-sē How to pronounce democracy (audio) \
plural democracies

Kids Definition of democracy

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

democracy

noun
de·​moc·​ra·​cy | \ di-ˈmä-krə-sē How to pronounce democracy (audio) \
plural democracies

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

Other Words from democracy

democratic \ ˌde-​mə-​ˈkra-​tik How to pronounce democracy (audio) \ adjective
democratically adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on democracy

Nglish: Translation of democracy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of democracy for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about democracy

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Words for Scrabble

  • scrabble tiles that read scrabble quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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