plu·​toc·​ra·​cy | \ plü-ˈtä-krə-sē How to pronounce plutocracy (audio) \
plural plutocracies

Definition of plutocracy

1 : government by the wealthy
2 : a controlling class of the wealthy

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Other Words from plutocracy

plutocrat \ ˈplü-​tə-​ˌkrat How to pronounce plutocrat (audio) \ noun
plutocratic \ ˌplü-​tə-​ˈkra-​tik How to pronounce plutocratic (audio) \ adjective
plutocratically \ ˌplü-​tə-​ˈkra-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce plutocratically (audio) \ adverb

Did You Know?

Ploutos was Greek for "wealth", and Plouton, or Pluto, was one of the names used for the Greek god of the underworld, where all the earth's mineral wealth was stored. So a plutocracy governs or wields power through its money. The economic growth in the U.S. in the late 19th century produced a group of enormously wealthy plutocrats. Huge companies like John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil gained serious political power, and Rockefeller was able to influence lawmakers in states where his businesses operated. For this reason, it was said in 1905 that Ohio and New Jersey were plutocracies, not democracies.

Examples of plutocracy in a Sentence

If only the wealthy can afford to run for public office, are we more a plutocracy than a democracy? corporate greed and America's growing plutocracy
Recent Examples on the Web That way lies straightforward plutocracy, as those familiar with European social history will know. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "The New Aristocracy Discovers “Microschools”," 4 Aug. 2020 But, almost as if to assist the cause, the plutes seemed this year to put on an extended exhibit of performance art whose plain, if unstated, thesis is that plutocracy is maybe a bad idea. Anand Giridharadas, Time, "How America’s Elites Lost Their Grip," 21 Nov. 2019 Properly enforced and supported by other measures, such as meaningful campaign-finance reform and an effective antitrust policy, the new tax could help reverse America’s descent into plutocracy. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "The Growing Debate Over Elizabeth Warren’s Wealth Tax," 12 Sep. 2019 Before stadium building became another heartless money grab for the American plutocracy, Roy Hofheinz’s Astrodome was a genuine source of civic pride and national curiosity. The Si Staff,, "100 Figures Who Shaped the NFL’s First Century," 28 Aug. 2019 Bestselling books predicted dystopian outcomes in which society split into a wealthy, robot-owning plutocracy and an unemployed underclass, and repressive governments would be needed to rein in social discontent. The Economist, "A different dystopia: July 2030," 6 July 2019 If the primary had ended with Bernie Sanders facing down Jeb Bush, the key identities would have been economic — Bush would’ve run against Sanders’s socialism; Sanders would’ve run against Bush’s plutocracy. Ezra Klein, Vox, "How identity politics elected Donald Trump," 5 Nov. 2018 Sanders is a politician who relishes a fight against the plutocracy, and who, even in the Trump era, regards a guy like Jeff Bezos primarily as the class enemy founder of Amazon rather than a pillar of civil society who owns the Washington Post. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "The controversy over Bernie Sanders’s proposed Stop BEZOS Act, explained," 11 Sep. 2018 The Roosevelts saved America from plutocracy and created a golden age for the middle class. Robert D. Atkinson, The New Republic, "The Myth of the Roosevelt “Trustbusters”," 4 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'plutocracy.' 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 plutocracy

1631, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for plutocracy

Greek ploutokratia, from ploutos wealth; akin to Greek plein to sail, float — more at flow

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Time Traveler for plutocracy

Time Traveler

The first known use of plutocracy was in 1631

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Cite this Entry

“Plutocracy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.

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More Definitions for plutocracy


How to pronounce plutocracy (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of plutocracy

: government by the richest people
: a country that is ruled by the richest people
: a group of very rich people who have a lot of power

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Nglish: Translation of plutocracy for Spanish Speakers

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