[ byoo-rok-ruh-see ]
See synonyms for bureaucracy on Thesaurus.com
noun,plural bu·reauc·ra·cies.
  1. government by many bureaus, administrators, and petty officials.

  2. the body of officials and administrators, especially of a government or government department.

  1. excessive multiplication of, and concentration of power in, administrative bureaus or administrators.

  2. administration characterized by excessive red tape and routine.

Origin of bureaucracy

First recorded in 1810–20; bureau + -cracy, modeled on French bureaucratie

Words Nearby bureaucracy

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use bureaucracy in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for bureaucracy


/ (bjʊəˈrɒkrəsɪ) /

nounplural -cies
  1. a system of administration based upon organization into bureaus, division of labour, a hierarchy of authority, etc: designed to dispose of a large body of work in a routine manner

  2. government by such a system

  1. government or other officials collectively

  2. any administration in which action is impeded by unnecessary official procedures and red tape

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

Cultural definitions for bureaucracy


[ (byoo-rok-ruh-see) ]

A formal, hierarchical organization with many levels in which tasks, responsibilities, and authority are delegated among individuals, offices, or departments, held together by a central administration. According to many sociologists and anthropologists, the development of bureaucratic organizations is necessary for the emergence of any modern civilization. (See Max Weber.)

Notes for bureaucracy

Today, the term bureaucracy suggests a lack of initiative, excessive adherence to rules and routine, red tape (see also red tape), inefficiency, or, even more serious, an impersonal force dominating the lives of individuals. (See Big Brother is watching you.)

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.