ol·​i·​garch ˈä-lə-ˌgärk How to pronounce oligarch (audio) ˈō- How to pronounce oligarch (audio)
plural oligarchs
: a member or supporter of an oligarchy
in Russia and other countries that succeeded the Soviet Union : one of a class of individuals who through private acquisition of state assets amassed great wealth that is stored especially in foreign accounts and properties and who typically maintain close links to the highest government circles
But what does it really mean to be a Russian oligarch …? … in Russian politics, the term first came about in the 1990s to describe a dozen or so powerful men who amassed immense wealth following the collapse of the Soviet Union.The Business Insider
The task force will pool the resources of the countries' law enforcement divisions to track down the assets of Russian oligarchs stashed overseas, a difficult task complicated by the opaque or complicated financial instruments frequently used by Russian financial elites to hide their holdings from public view.Jeff Stein
… young Armenians, who joined the protests in droves, angry that the same small club of politicians and oligarchs has controlled the country since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.Neil Macfarquhar

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Did Kilimnik pass along the Trump campaign’s polling data to a Russian oligarch to whom Manafort owed millions? Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, 16 Aug. 2022 No Russian oligarch would be caught dead in a thirty-five-foot yacht, even with the sanctions. Anand Giridharadas, The New Yorker, 4 Mar. 2023 When American businessman Todd Boehly purchased Chelsea Football Club from Roman Abramovich last spring, the conventional wisdom was that the bacchanalia of spending that had defined the Russian oligarch’s time running the team had come to an end. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 4 Feb. 2023 The investor in question was the cousin and money manager of a Russian oligarch who has been sanctioned by the United States, according to the Washington Post. Erin Mansfield, USA TODAY, 26 Jan. 2023 McGonigal and Shestakov, who worked for the FBI investigating oligarchs, allegedly agreed in 2021 to investigate a rival Russian oligarch in return for payments from Deripaska, according to the Justice Department. Luke Barr, ABC News, 23 Jan. 2023 Wednesday’s capture is not the first time Spanish authorities have been involved in the seizure of a Russian oligarch’s superyacht. NBC News, 4 Apr. 2022 However, he was embroiled in controversy in a May 19 press conference over his film’s financial ties to the Russian Israeli oligarch Roman Abramovich. Vulture, 20 May 2022 Prior to the imposition of sanctions on the oligarch in 2018, it was listed in regulatory filings as an affiliate of Viktor Vekselberg's Renova Group, an aluminum, energy and telecom conglomerate. Clare Hymes, CBS News, 13 Jan. 2023 See More

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

Word History


borrowed from Greek oligárchēs, from olig- olig- + -archēs -arch entry 1, after Greek oligarcheîsthai "to be ruled by an oligarchy," oligarchía oligarchy

First Known Use

circa 1610, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of oligarch was circa 1610

Dictionary Entries Near oligarch

Cite this Entry

“Oligarch.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oligarch. Accessed 2 Apr. 2023.

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