fourth estate


often capitalized F&E
: 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 To do less daily science news and more fourth estate reporting? Ed Yong, Discover Magazine, 26 Aug. 2010 Defense lawyer Audrey Eu argued Monday that the charges were unconstitutional and that the media has a duty as the fourth estate to report. Selina Cheng, WSJ, 1 Nov. 2022 The directors’ decision to focus on the fourth estate in democracies as opposed to autocracies was a deliberate choice. Addie Morfoot, Variety, 8 June 2022 Also getting the golden ticket are several members of the fourth estate. Brent Lang, Variety, 11 June 2022 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

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fourth estate.' 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

1837, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of fourth estate was in 1837


Dictionary Entries Near fourth estate

Cite this Entry

“Fourth estate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

fourth estate

often capitalized F&E
: the journalists of a country
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