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

Examples of oligarch in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Since its independence from Spain in 1821, Guatemala has been ruled by a series of dictators aligned with landowning oligarchs. USA TODAY, 19 Aug. 2023 An unverified claim that the Bidens pushed for a $10 million payout from a Ukrainian oligarch is catnip for conservatives. Philip Elliott, Time, 26 July 2023 The recommendation from the executive, the European Commission, comes with the caveat that Ukraine must take steps to address corruption, protect minorities and limit the power of oligarchs. Monika Pronczuk, New York Times, 8 Nov. 2023 Russia had embarked upon a slightly similar campaign, in which various oligarchs connected to Vladimir Putin had started to invest quite heavily in the West—the most famous of which was the owner Roman Abramovich of Chelsea Football Club, who bought it in 2002. The Politics Of Everything, The New Republic, 27 Sep. 2023 These technocrats are the new American oligarchs, controlling online access for billions of users on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Jonathan Taplin, Rolling Stone, 24 Sep. 2023 Some reckoned oligarchs were behind the murder; others, the government itself. Mathias Döpfner, Fortune, 19 Sep. 2023 Since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, Ukraine’s oligarchs have seen their influence greatly curtailed, as officials have introduced laws aimed at diminishing their political and economic reach. David L. Stern, Washington Post, 17 Sep. 2023 In August 2021, Mr. Fokin retained Mr. McGonigal and the former Russian diplomat for a new brief: investigating a rival oligarch with whom Mr. Deripaska was involved in a business dispute. William K. Rashbaum, New York Times, 14 Aug. 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 29 Nov. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on oligarch

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!