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aristocracy

[ar-uh-stok-ruh-see]
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noun, plural ar·is·toc·ra·cies.
  1. a class of persons holding exceptional rank and privileges, especially the hereditary nobility.
  2. a government or state ruled by an aristocracy, elite, or privileged upper class.
  3. government by those considered to be the best or most able people in the state.
  4. a governing body composed of those considered to be the best or most able people in the state.
  5. any class or group considered to be superior, as through education, ability, wealth, or social prestige.

Origin of aristocracy

1555–65; (< Middle French aristocratie) < Medieval Latin aristocracia (variant of -tia) < Greek aristokratía rule of the best. See aristo-, -cracy
Related formsan·ti·ar·is·toc·ra·cy, adjective, noun, plural an·ti·ar·is·toc·ra·cies.pro·ar·is·toc·ra·cy, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for aristocracy

aristocracy

noun plural -cies
  1. a privileged class of people usually of high birth; the nobility
  2. such a class as the ruling body of a state
  3. government by such a class
  4. a state governed by such a class
  5. a class of people considered to be outstanding in a sphere of activity

Word Origin

C16: from Late Latin aristocratia, from Greek aristokratia rule by the best-born, from aristos best; see -cracy
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for aristocracy

n.

1560s, from Middle French aristocracie (Modern French aristocratie), from Late Latin aristocratia, from Greek aristokratia "government or rule of the best," from aristos "best" (originally "most fitting," from PIE *ar-isto-, superlative form of *ar- "to fit together;" see arm (n.1)) + kratos "rule, power" (see -cracy).

At first in a literal sense of "government by those who are the best citizens;" meaning "rule by a privileged class" (best-born or best-favored by fortune) is from 1570s and became paramount 17c. Hence, the meaning "patrician order" (1650s). In early use contrasted with monarchy; after French and American revolutions, with democracy.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

aristocracy in Culture

aristocracy

A privileged, primarily hereditary ruling class, or a form of government controlled by such an elite.

Note

Traditionally, the disproportionate concentration of wealth, social status, and political influence in the aristocracy has been resented by the middle class and lower class.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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