mer·​i·​toc·​ra·​cy | \ ˌmer-ə-ˈtä-krə-sē How to pronounce meritocracy (audio) \
plural meritocracies

Definition of meritocracy

: a system, organization, or society in which people are chosen and moved into positions of success, power, and influence on the basis of their demonstrated abilities and merit (see merit entry 1 sense 1b) Only the elite, in that new meritocracy, would enjoy the opportunity for self-fulfillment …— Robert Penn Warren Though founded theoretically on principles of meritocracy, the public arena was parceled into spheres of personal influence …— Mac Margolis A paradox lies at the heart of this new American meritocracy. Merit has replaced the old system of inherited privilege … . But merit, it turns out, is at least partly class-based. Parents with money, education and connections cultivate in their children the habits that the meritocracy rewards.— Janny Scott et al. also : the people who are moved into such positions a member of the meritocracy France remains a tightly centralized nation, run by a governmental and business meritocracy carefully prepared for positions of power in elite graduate schools. — Jim Hoagland

Other Words from meritocracy

meritocratic \ ˌmer-​ə-​tə-​ˈkra-​tik How to pronounce meritocracy (audio) \ adjective

Examples of meritocracy in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Turning the moon into the latest stage for identity politics not only subverts critical meritocracy, but also harms the reputation of science in the public eye and distracts from the central mission of space exploration. Andrew Follett, National Review, 1 Apr. 2022 Still others see the very ideas of competition and meritocracy as by-products of white supremacy. Rachel M. Cohen, The New Republic, 28 Mar. 2022 That meritocracy or traits such as hard work ethic are racist or sexist. al, 8 Mar. 2022 Ideally, the field is based on the idea of meritocracy. Naveen Joshi, Forbes, 14 Mar. 2022 In a pure meritocracy, success indicates pure merit: a very flattering situation for someone like Vivek Ramaswamy. Laura Jedeed, The New Republic, 1 Mar. 2022 But Students for Fair Admissions, the group bringing the current case against Harvard, wants to portray Asian-Americans as injured by a process that should be a meritocracy. WSJ, 1 Feb. 2022 American meritocracy held up the immigrant as proof that its rules were fair, and many high achievers were flattered to play along. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, 10 Mar. 2022 The idea that our society is a meritocracy is also hammered into us from childhood. Maggie Mertens, The Atlantic, 26 Feb. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of meritocracy

1956, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for meritocracy

merit entry 1 + -o- + -cracy

Note: The neologism meritocracy was apparently first used in print by the British industrial sociologist Alan Fox (1920-2002) in the article "Class and Equality," Socialist Commentary, May, 1956, pp. 11-13. The word is now closely associated with the book The Rise of the Meritocracy (London: Thames & Hudson, 1958) by the sociologist and politician Michael Young (1915-2002), who is often credited with its coinage.

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The first known use of meritocracy was in 1956

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Last Updated

8 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Meritocracy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2022.

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