Trend Watch

Former Ethics Director: U.S. At Risk of Being Seen as 'Kleptocracy'

Breaking it down to understand the big picture.

Kleptocracy was among our top lookups on July 31st, 2017, following comments made by Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, to the UK newspaper The Guardian.

The former head of the US government ethics watchdog has warned that Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest put the country at risk of being seen as a "kleptocracy."
—David Smith, The Guardian (, 31 Jul. 2017

Kleptocracy is one of a large number of words in English which are formed by adding -cracy, which is a noun combining form that may be traced to the Greek word for "strength," kratos. The initial portion of the word comes from the Greek kleptein ("to steal"), and serves as the basis for a handful of other words in English, most of which have to do with various kinds of theft (such as biblioklept, "one who steals books").

We define kleptocracy as "government by those who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed; also:  a particular government of this kind." The word appears to have entered our language in the early 19th century.

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