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.

Example Sentences

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 King’s political activism during 1963 reimagined American democracy on both an intimate and expansive scale, introducing a new lexicon for citizenship. Peniel E. Joseph, CNN, 14 Jan. 2023 According to reports, China has 350 nuclear warheads, while India, the world’s largest democracy, has 160 nuclear warheads. Benjamin Weinthal, Fox News, 13 Jan. 2023 Pentagon officials said the restructuring is partly to deal with China’s growing military activity and presence, including around the island of Taiwan, a self-governing democracy that the Chinese Communist Party intends to bring under its rule. Edward Wong, BostonGlobe.com, 13 Jan. 2023 In last year’s speech, President Biden highlighted the coordinated response of the U.S. and allies to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and tried to rally Americans behind defending democracy. Andrew Restuccia, WSJ, 13 Jan. 2023 The El Paso Democrat will explore the present and future of U.S. democracy using Texas as a case study, according to the university’s Institute of Politics. Sarah Bahari, Dallas News, 12 Jan. 2023 Even so, Bolsonaro's supporters stormed the three pillars of Brazil’s federal government on Sunday – the presidential palace, the Congress and the Supreme Court – and brought democracy to a temporary halt. David Jackson, USA TODAY, 12 Jan. 2023 But today in this village, 21 miles northwest of Ramallah, all community works are highly organized, drawing on corporate efficiency and the participatory spirit of town hall democracy. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, 11 Jan. 2023 Bolsonaro also tweeted on Sunday that while peaceful demonstrations were part of a democracy, invasions of public buildings were antithetical to the rule of law. Sanya Mansoor, Time, 11 Jan. 2023 See More

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

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 6 Feb. 2023.

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

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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