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[ol-i-gahr-kee] /ˈɒl ɪˌgɑr ki/
noun, plural oligarchies.
a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.
a state or organization so ruled.
the persons or class so ruling.
Origin of oligarchy
1570-80; < Medieval Latin oligarchia < Greek oligarchía. See olig-, -archy Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for oligarchy
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Thus much of the origin,—let us next consider the evils of oligarchy.

    The Republic Plato
  • Tyranny springs from democracy much as democracy springs from oligarchy.

    The Republic Plato
  • Such, then, is the form and such are the evils of oligarchy; and there may be many other evils.

    The Republic Plato
  • Ought I not to begin by describing how the change from timocracy to oligarchy arises?

    The Republic Plato
  • And this, speaking generally, is the way in which oligarchy is established.

    The Republic Plato
  • Well, I said, and how does the change from oligarchy into democracy arise?

    The Republic Plato
British Dictionary definitions for oligarchy


noun (pl) -chies
government by a small group of people
a state or organization so governed
a small body of individuals ruling such a state
(mainly US) a small clique of private citizens who exert a strong influence on government
Derived Forms
oligarchic, oligarchical, adjective
oligarchically, adverb
Word Origin
C16: via Medieval Latin from Greek oligarkhia, from olígos few + -archy
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 oligarchy

1570s, from Middle French oligarchie (14c.), from Greek oligarkhia "government by the few," from stem of oligos "few, small, little" (see oligo-) + arkhein "to rule" (see archon).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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oligarchy in Culture
oligarchy [(ol-uh-gahr-kee, oh-luh-gahr-kee)]

A system of government in which power is held by a small group.

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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