ol·​i·​gar·​chy | \ ˈä-lə-ˌgär-kē, ˈō- \
plural oligarchies

Definition of oligarchy

1 : government by the few The corporation is ruled by oligarchy.
2 : a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes a military oligarchy was established in the country also : a group exercising such control An oligarchy ruled the nation.
3 : an organization under oligarchic control That country is an oligarchy.

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Oligarchy and Other Words for Rulers

Oligarchy is one of numerous English words for a type of rule or government. Some of these words, such as plutocracy, have an exceedingly similar meaning (both may be used to refer to rule by an economic elite, but oligarchy often has the additional connotation of corruption). Besides these two, we have meritocracy “a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement,” monarchy “a form of government in which a country is ruled by a king or queen,” ochlocracy “government by the mob," and gerontocracy “rule by elders,” among many others.

Examples of oligarchy in a Sentence

Their nation is an oligarchy. An oligarchy rules their nation. The corporation is ruled by oligarchy.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The wellness economy is organized like an oligarchy. Brennan Kilbane, GQ, "The Least Stressful Way to Get Rid of Stress," 16 May 2018 He was convinced that Hamilton’s proposals were a stepping stone on the path to oligarchy and the destruction of self-government. Jay Cost, WSJ, "The Founding Era’s Populist Moment," 8 June 2018 Economic oligarchy will be established in law, and any political check on the powers of business likely will be eviscerated. Charles P. Pierce, Esquire, "Why Do the Koch Brothers Want a Convention of States?," 8 Jan. 2018 The oligarchy in this country, whose greed is insatiable, is destroying Lincoln's vision of America, is destroying our vision of America, and is moving us in a direction of the few, by the few, for the few. Evan Halper, latimes.com, "Democrats vie to impress the party’s elite, and audition for the 2020 presidential race," 15 May 2018 Armenians have seen their country, once the poster child for democratization after the collapse of the Soviet Union, stagnate in the hands of an entrenched oligarchy while many citizens choose to leave, Broers said. Sheena Mckenzie Gianluca Mezzofiore, CNN, "Protests in Armenia after opposition leader's power bid blocked," 2 May 2018 Further, Trump’s presidency shows that corporate oligarchies and autocratic politics go hand-in-hand in America no less than in Russia. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Trump’s Amazon Trap," 4 Apr. 2018 Vargas Llosa’s call to reduce state subsidies terrified many of these citizens, as did his connections to the rich, white elite that dominated Peru like an oligarchy. Marcela Valdes, New York Times, "The Elder Statesman of Latin American Literature — and a Writer of Our Moment," 20 Feb. 2018 In 2018, Abrams is running against hate, despair and an oligarchy that has turned the White House into a kleptocracy. Terrell Jermaine Starr, The Root, "In the Race for Georgia Governor, Can Stacey Abrams Usher In a New Southern Strategy for the Democrats?," 17 Jan. 2018

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

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First Known Use of oligarchy

1542, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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More Definitions for oligarchy



English Language Learners Definition of oligarchy

: a country, business, etc., that is controlled by a small group of people

: the people that control a country, business, etc.

: government or control by a small group of people

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More from Merriam-Webster on oligarchy

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with oligarchy

Spanish Central: Translation of oligarchy

Nglish: Translation of oligarchy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about oligarchy

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