nep·​o·​tism ˈne-pə-ˌti-zəm How to pronounce nepotism (audio)
: favoritism (as in appointment to a job) based on kinship
accused the company of fostering nepotism in promotions
nepotistic adjective

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Nepotism Has Papal Origins

We happen to have neither Merriams nor Websters on our staff at Merriam-Webster, and familial connections to the company’s founders do not provide an advantage to job applicants. If it were otherwise, we might be accused of nepotism—that is, favoritism based on kinship, especially in professional contexts. English speakers have kept nepotism in the family since the late 1600s, having adopted it from the French, who were inspired by Gregorio Leti's 1667 book Il nipotismo di Roma (English title: The History of the Popes' Nephews). The book explores a practice introduced by Pope Sixtus IV: during his papacy in the late 15th century he granted many special favors to members of his family, in particular to his nephews. This practice of papal favoritism was carried on by his near successors. Today, nepotism is mostly associated with business and politics. In recent informal English use, the shortened form nepo has been hitched to the denigrating term baby to refer especially to celebrities who had a parent (or two) who were also in the entertainment industry.

Examples of nepotism in a Sentence

Nepotism has hurt the company.
Recent Examples on the Web The court was then headed by Widodo's brother-in-law, who was removed by an ethics panel for not recusing himself, and Widodo was accused of nepotism. Niniek Karmini and Edna Tariganthe Associated Press,, 15 Feb. 2024 Paltrow previously addressed the nepotism discourse in conversation with Hailey Baldwin on her YouTube series Who's in My Bathroom?, 18 Oct. 2023 Questionable acquisitions and whiffs of nepotism Beyond waning client retention and increasing competition, Axler and his team believe that MSCI has opted for acquisitions that don’t always make sense in order to boost its earnings over the near term. Will Daniel, Fortune, 17 Jan. 2024 Corruption has vanished and the previous practice of nepotism for contracts has stopped. Pamela Constable, Washington Post, 4 June 2023 Some of these adjustments were welcome, even overdue; Hollywood has enough opportunities for nepotism without the title formerly known as Miss Golden Globe. Alison Herman, Variety, 8 Jan. 2024 In a February 2023 survey by YouGov, out of 10 fields, politics was the one in which the highest number of respondents said nepotism was very common (53%). TIME, 12 Oct. 2023 The nepo-friend isn’t new (although their perks have changed over time), nor is the discourse on the way nepotism functions in Hollywood and other creative industries. Time, 26 Sep. 2023 Due to nepotism rules, Rosalynn Carter could only be the honorary chair, but nobody doubted who was in control. Phyllis Vine, STAT, 21 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'nepotism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French népotisme, from Italian nepotismo, from nepote nephew, from Latin nepot-, nepos grandson, nephew — more at nephew

First Known Use

1670, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of nepotism was in 1670


Dictionary Entries Near nepotism

Cite this Entry

“Nepotism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


nep·​o·​tism ˈnep-ə-ˌtiz-əm How to pronounce nepotism (audio)
: favoritism shown to a relative (as in the distribution of political offices)
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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