[ ih-stab-lish-muhnt ]
/ ɪˈstæb lɪʃ mənt /
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Origin of establishment

First recorded in 1475–85, and in1920–25 for def. 4a; establish + -ment

OTHER WORDS FROM establishment

non·es·tab·lish·ment, noun, adjectivere·es·tab·lish·ment, nounsu·per·es·tab·lish·ment, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does establishment mean?

Establishment commonly refers to the official start or founding of something, such as a law, business, or other organization, as in It has been 200 years since the establishment of this great nation. 

It is the noun form of the verb establish, which has many meanings but most commonly means to found, institute, or bring into being.

Things that have been established are called establishments, especially businesses, as in I try to buy from local establishments whenever possible. 

Establishment is also used more specifically to refer collectively to the existing power structure in a society and its dominant institutions, as in That kind of radical thinking is frowned upon by the establishment. This use is often negative. It can also be used in a similar way to refer to the dominant group in a particular field, as in the medical establishment. In both of these cases, Establishment is often capitalized.

Where does establishment come from?

The first records of establishment come from the late 1400s. It is the noun form of the verb establish, which comes from the Old French establir, from the Latin stabilīre, meaning “to make firm.” This comes from the Latin stabilis, which means “stable” and is the basis of the word stable.

The word establishment usually applies to things that are stable, lasting, and often permanent. The establishment of a law is its official adoption. The establishment of an organization is its founding.

When establishment is used to refer to a company, it often means a small business—like the kind that has Established 1992 on its sign or front window to show how long it’s been in business.

When people talk about the Establishment, they’re referring to the powers that be—the established institutions and authorities. When used in this way, it’s most often used negatively to criticize such powers. This sense of the word is often used more narrowly to refer to the dominant group in a particular field, as in the political establishment or the literary establishment. Such uses are not necessarily negative. Establishment can also be used as an adjective to describe related things, as in establishment thinking. 

Much more specifically, establishment can refer to a country’s recognition of a church as the official state church. People who support this are called establishmentarians. Those who want church and state to be separate are called disestablishmentarians. Those who oppose this separation are called antidisestablishmentarians, and their opposition is called antidisestablishmentarianism (which is a famously long word). Glad we’ve got that established!

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to establishment?

  • establish (verb)
  • nonestablishment (noun)
  • reestablishment (noun)
  • superestablishment (noun)

What are some synonyms for establishment?

What are some words that share a root or word element with establishment

What are some words that often get used in discussing establishment?


How is establishment used in real life?

The word establishment is very common and used in many contexts. When it refers to the powers that be, it is often used negatively.



Try using establishment!

Which of the following terms is NOT a synonym for the Establishment?

A. the powerless
B. the powers that be
C. the dominant institutions
D. the authorities

How to use establishment in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for establishment (1 of 2)

/ (ɪˈstæblɪʃmənt) /


British Dictionary definitions for establishment (2 of 2)

/ (ɪˈstæblɪʃmənt) /

the Establishment a group or class of people having institutional authority within a society, esp those who control the civil service, the government, the armed forces, and the Church: usually identified with a conservative outlook
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