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[mer-i-tok-ruh-see] /ˌmɛr ɪˈtɒk rə si/
noun, plural meritocracies.
an elite group of people whose progress is based on ability and talent rather than on class privilege or wealth.
a system in which such persons are rewarded and advanced:
The dean believes the educational system should be a meritocracy.
leadership by able and talented persons.
Origin of meritocracy
First recorded in 1955-60; merit + -o- + -cracy
Related forms
[mer-i-tuh-krat-ik] /ˌmɛr ɪ təˈkræt ɪk/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for meritocracy
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • With meritocracy in the ascendance, aristocracy was in descent.

    After the Rain Sam Vaknin
  • Which leads us to the death of meritocracy and why this region's future is behind it.

    After the Rain Sam Vaknin
  • meritocracy is a "fair play" by rules of equal chance to derive benefits.

    After the Rain Sam Vaknin
  • All modern states and societies must choose whether to be governed by merit (meritocracy) or by the privileged few (oligarchy).

    After the Rain Sam Vaknin
  • To belong to a meritocracy one needs to satisfy a series of demands, whose attainment is entirely up to he individual.

    After the Rain Sam Vaknin
British Dictionary definitions for meritocracy


noun (pl) -cies
rule by persons chosen not because of birth or wealth, but for their superior talents or intellect
the persons constituting such a group
a social system formed on such a basis
Derived Forms
meritocrat, noun
meritocratic (ˌmɛrɪtəˈkrætɪk) adjective
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 meritocracy

coined 1958 by British sociologist Michael Young (1915-2002) and used in title of his book, "The Rise of the Meritocracy"; from merit (n.) + -cracy. Related: Meritocratic.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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meritocracy in Culture
meritocracy [(mer-i-tok-ruh-see)]

A government or society in which citizens who display superior achievement are rewarded with positions of leadership. In a meritocracy, all citizens have the opportunity to be recognized and advanced in proportion to their abilities and accomplishments. The ideal of meritocracy has become controversial because of its association with the use of tests of intellectual ability, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, to regulate admissions to elite colleges and universities. Many contend that an individual's performance on these tests reflects his or her social class and family environment more than ability.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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