fourth estate

noun, often capitalized F&E

Definition of fourth estate

: the public press

Did you know?

It might be news to you that the term fourth estate has been around for centuries. In Europe, going back to medieval times, the people who participated in the political life of a country were generally divided into three classes or estates. In England they were the three groups with representation in Parliament, namely, the nobility, the clergy, and the common people. Some other group, like the mob or the public press, that had an unofficial but often great influence on public affairs, was called the fourth estate. In the 19th century, fourth estate came to refer exclusively to the press, and now it's applied to all branches of the news media.

Examples of fourth estate in a Sentence

a member of the Fourth Estate
Recent Examples on the Web The results were groundbreaking, and unfortunately, as punishment for the fourth estate's transgressions, the quarter-ton segment would eventually be vanquished from the U.S. forever. Nicholas Wallace, Car and Driver, 11 Feb. 2022 When the founders of America wrote the Constitution, the fourth estate was journalism. Antonio Ferme, Variety, 6 Dec. 2021 Anderson is devoted to mythologizing the fourth estate. Armond White, National Review, 5 Nov. 2021 American civic education hasn’t emphasized the vital role of journalism as the fourth estate, as important to the good society as the separation of powers or checks and balances in the federal government. Anthony Hennen, National Review, 26 Oct. 2021 To the Biden cheerleaders known as the fourth estate, the Democratic nominee boasts a legal team that would put Clarence Darrow, Thurgood Marshall and Cicero to shame. Kimberley A. Strassel, WSJ, 29 Oct. 2020 As election day nears, he's redoubled his efforts bashing the fourth estate, research by Sugars has shown. Eliza Mackintosh, CNN, 25 Oct. 2020 Of course, the British monarch's message didn't directly address any of these issues, and could be seen as entirely independent from them—a simple message of support for the fourth estate in the middle of a global crisis. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, 6 Oct. 2020 It’s about the difference between state media and the fourth estate. Washington Post, 25 Aug. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fourth estate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of fourth estate

1837, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of fourth estate was in 1837

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Cite this Entry

“Fourth estate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2022.

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