nep·​o·​tism ˈne-pə-ˌti-zəm How to pronounce nepotism (audio)
: favoritism (as in appointment to a job) based on kinship
accused the company of fostering nepotism in promotions
nepotistic adjective

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Nepotism Has Papal Origins

We happen to have neither Merriams nor Websters on our staff at Merriam-Webster, and familial connections to the company’s founders do not provide an advantage to job applicants. If it were otherwise, we might be accused of nepotism—that is, favoritism based on kinship, especially in professional contexts. English speakers have kept nepotism in the family since the late 1600s, having adopted it from the French, who were inspired by Gregorio Leti's 1667 book Il nipotismo di Roma (English title: The History of the Popes' Nephews). The book explores a practice introduced by Pope Sixtus IV: during his papacy in the late 15th century he granted many special favors to members of his family, in particular to his nephews. This practice of papal favoritism was carried on by his near successors. Today, nepotism is mostly associated with business and politics. In recent informal English use, the shortened form nepo has been hitched to the denigrating term baby to refer especially to celebrities who had a parent (or two) who were also in the entertainment industry.

Examples of nepotism in a Sentence

Nepotism has hurt the company.
Recent Examples on the Web At that time, an internal ESA committee that guards against nepotism advised against the wife's appointment, according to an available document. Tereza Pultarova, Ars Technica, 7 Nov. 2023 Her play on nepotism is a nearly perfect way to describe our current housing market, one of deteriorated affordability that’s fallen to levels unseen since the height of the housing bubble. Alena Botros, Fortune, 19 Oct. 2023 And an untrained athlete’s sluggish performance in an elite sprint sparks a nepotism scandal. Elizabeth Robinson, NBC News, 3 Aug. 2023 Republicans have cast Hunter’s troubles as a stew of nepotism and corruption, which the Biden administration denies. Katie Rogers, New York Times, 10 Sep. 2023 In response to a question about nepotism, involving the temporary promotion of his stepdaughter’s husband, Clardy revealed that he had been divorced for a few months and separated for more than a year. Paige Williams, The New Yorker, 24 July 2023 The subject of nepotism — specifically, nepotism in Hollywood — rose to the surface in late 2022, and at the center of it was Kate and her family. Emily Weaver, Peoplemag, 14 Oct. 2023 There’s been nepotism and vote buying in the town of Idyllwild, Calif. Sydney Page, Washington Post, 29 Sep. 2023 Scott Pioli, the former general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs and a former personnel executive for the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, said hiring for those entry positions had traditionally been marked by racial and gender discrimination as well as nepotism. Emmanuel Morgan, New York Times, 24 Sep. 2023 See More

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

Word History


French népotisme, from Italian nepotismo, from nepote nephew, from Latin nepot-, nepos grandson, nephew — more at nephew

First Known Use

1670, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of nepotism was in 1670


Dictionary Entries Near nepotism

Cite this Entry

“Nepotism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


nep·​o·​tism ˈnep-ə-ˌtiz-əm How to pronounce nepotism (audio)
: favoritism shown to a relative (as in the distribution of political offices)
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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