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fourth estate

noun, (often initial capital letters)
the journalistic profession or its members; the press.
a group other than the usual powers, as the three estates of France, that wields influence in the politics of a country.
Origin of fourth estate
First recorded in 1830-40 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for fourth estate
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I won't say how we prevailed with the fourth estate, except that it wasn't by bribery.

    Foe-Farrell Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch
  • His response to the toast of the fourth estate was an apology for its behaviour to my father.

  • The exact position of that local representative of the fourth estate is best defined as district reporter.

    The Call of the Town John Alexander Hammerton
  • All the glories and grandeurs of the fourth estate were concentrated in that haughty monosyllable.

    The Big Bow Mystery I. Zangwill
British Dictionary definitions for fourth estate

fourth estate

(sometimes capitals) journalists or their profession; the press See estate (sense 4)
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
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Word Origin and History for fourth estate

"the press," by 1824, and especially from 1831, British English. For the other three, see estate. Earlier the term had been applied in various senses that did not stick, including "the mob" (1752), "the lawyers" (1825). The extension to the press is perhaps an outgrowth of the former.

Hence, through the light of letters and the liberty of the press, public opinion has risen to the rank of a fourth estate in our constitution; in times of quiet and order, silent and still, but in the collisions of the different branches of our government, deciding as an umpire with unbounded authority. ["Memoir of James Currie, M.D.," 1831]

[Newspapers] began to assume some degree of political importance, during the civil wars of the seventeenth century, in England; but it is not until within the last fifty years that they have become, -- as they are now justly styled, -- a Fourth Estate, exercising a more powerful influence on the public affairs of the countries in which they are permitted to circulate freely, than the other three put together. [Alexander H. Everett, "Address to the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Bowdoin College," 1834]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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