democracy

noun

de·​moc·​ra·​cy di-ˈmä-krə-sē How to pronounce democracy (audio)
plural democracies
1
a
: government by the people
especially : rule of the majority
b
: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
2
: a political unit that has a democratic government
3
capitalized : the principles and policies of the Democratic party in the U.S.
from emancipation Republicanism to New Deal DemocracyC. M. Roberts
4
: the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority
5
: the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the United States a democracy or a republic?

The United States is both a democracy and a republic. Democracies and republics are both forms of government in which supreme power resides in the citizens. The word republic refers specifically to a government in which those citizens elect representatives who govern according to the law. The word democracy can refer to this same kind of representational government, or it can refer instead to what is also called a direct democracy, in which the citizens themselves participate in the act of governing directly.

What is the basic meaning of democracy?

The word democracy most often refers to a form of government in which people choose leaders by voting.

What is a democratic system of government?

A democratic system of government is a form of government in which supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodic free elections.

Examples of democracy in a Sentence

Democracy, I would repeat, is the noblest form of government we have yet evolved … Norman Mailer, New York Review of Books, 27 Mar. 2002
… this and the economic failures of faithful democracies in places such as India or the Anglophone Caribbean demonstrated conclusively that there was no inherent link between freedom and capitalism … Orlando Patterson, New Republic, 8 Nov. 1999
Even in democracies today, crucial knowledge is available to only a few individuals … Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, 1997
The nation has chosen democracy over monarchy. In a democracy, every citizen should have the right to vote. The company is not a democracy; decisions are made by a board of directors, not the workers. There is democracy within the company. See More
Recent Examples on the Web This practice created a broad and stable consensus that upheld liberal democracy, the welfare state, and private ownership of the means of production. Andrew Moravcsik, Foreign Affairs, 20 Feb. 2024 But for Democrats, the mission is similar: Now defending the White House, President Biden is trying to reassemble that sprawling anti-Trump coalition, casting the 2024 contest as another battle to save American democracy as Mr. Trump moves toward the Republican nomination. Katie Glueck, New York Times, 19 Feb. 2024 Plato, who saw democracy as too flawed to function, believed that a republic must be headed by a philosopher-king—a figure whom Plato’s translator, for one, saw in Lorenzo. Claudia Roth Pierpont, The New Yorker, 19 Feb. 2024 But the 70-year-old president has also been accused of making moves that endanger the country’s democracy. Amaranta Marentes, The Christian Science Monitor, 19 Feb. 2024 Senegal has been seen as one of the region's most stable democracies, but election disputes have plunged the country into a political crisis that has sparked deadly protests and cuts to mobile internet service. arkansasonline.com, 17 Feb. 2024 Related Articles Saving democracy is central to Biden’s campaign messaging. Cnn.com Wire Service, The Mercury News, 17 Feb. 2024 Sall, in a nationwide address earlier this month, had indefinitely delayed the election, fueling outrage both within Senegal and internationally about democratic backsliding in a country with one of the strongest histories of democracy in West Africa. Rachel Chason, Washington Post, 16 Feb. 2024 Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of American democracy. Charlotte Observer, 8 Feb. 2024 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

borrowed from Middle French democracie, democratie, borrowed from Late Latin dēmocratia, borrowed from Greek dēmokratía, from dēmo- demo- + -kratia -cracy

First Known Use

1539, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of democracy was in 1539

Dictionary Entries Near democracy

Cite this Entry

“Democracy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/democracy. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

democracy

noun
de·​moc·​ra·​cy di-ˈmäk-rə-sē How to pronounce democracy (audio)
plural democracies
1
a
: government by the people
especially : rule of the majority
b
: government in which the supreme power is held by the people and used by them directly or indirectly through representation
2
: a political unit (as a nation) that has a democratic government
3
: belief in or practice of the idea that all people are socially equal
Etymology

from early French democratie "democracy," from Latin democratia (same meaning), from Greek demokratia "democracy," from dēmos "people, the masses" and -kratia "rule, government," from kratos "strength, power, authority" — related to epidemic

Legal Definition

democracy

noun
de·​moc·​ra·​cy di-ˈmä-krə-sē How to pronounce democracy (audio)
plural democracies
1
a
: government by the people
especially : rule of the majority
b
: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
2
: a political unit that has a democratic government
democratic adjective
democratically adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on democracy

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