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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web Biden's China theory intersects with his concern that democracy is under threat across the globe and that US foes see assaults on the political system from Donald Trump and his supporters as proof that the US model of governance is in trouble. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "How Joe Biden's views on China filter into his domestic policy," 29 Apr. 2021 Activists complain that Iranian authorities are co-opting the app to create a facade of democracy ahead of presidential elections in June to boost voter turnout, which the state has often used as a badge of legitimacy. Aresu Eqbali, WSJ, "Iran Floods Clubhouse to Drown Out Debate," 29 Apr. 2021 But a recall will unleash a desmadre of democracy that will make the 2003 voter takedown of Gov. Gray Davis seem as solemn as a Supreme Court hearing. Los Angeles Times, "Column: In California governor recall, Latinos have a chance to cause political ‘desmadre’," 26 Apr. 2021 The filibuster has been weaponized and racialized — would American democracy be better off without it? NBC News, "8 dead in Indianapolis FedEx shooting: The Morning Rundown," 16 Apr. 2021 Gorsuch noted that hot debate has been a hallmark of the nation since its founding but asserted that democracy at self is at stake if Americans don't engage in the political process and can't learn to speak to one another with civility and respect. John Fritze, USA TODAY, "Three Supreme Court justices tackle U.S. partisan divisions in public remarks," 16 Apr. 2021 Among the most central tenets of democracy is the right of every eligible citizen to have access to vote and to have that vote counted. The Economist, "Sherrilyn Ifill on the moral responsibility of business in politics," 16 Apr. 2021 There were many equally opposed to the calls to pack the court, with the same suggestions that democracy was at stake. Peter Suciu, Forbes, "Social Media Debate: To Pack Or Not To Pack The Supreme Court," 15 Apr. 2021 So, too, is civic trust in local and national news as building blocks of democracy. Patrik Jonsson, The Christian Science Monitor, "‘Real journalism.’ Inside the battle to save local newspapers.," 12 Apr. 2021

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for democracy

Time Traveler

The first known use of democracy was in 1539

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Statistics for democracy

Last Updated

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Democracy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/democracy. Accessed 11 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for democracy

democracy

noun

English Language Learners Definition of democracy

: 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

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

Comments on democracy

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