[ kak-uh-stok-ruh-see ]
/ ˌkæk əˈstɒk rə si /

noun, plural kak·is·toc·ra·cies.

government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power.



Think you know your presidents? Take this quiz and see if you can match the style, wit, and ideology of these memorable lines to the right POTUS.
Question 1 of 9
“I do believe that the buck stops here, that I cannot rely upon public opinion polls to tell me what is right. I do believe that right makes might and that if I am wrong, 10 angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”

Origin of kakistocracy

1820–30; <Greek kákisto(s), superlative of kakós bad + -cracy

OTHER WORDS FROM kakistocracy

ka·kis·to·crat·i·cal [kuh-kis-tuh-krat-i-kuhl], /kəˌkɪs təˈkræt ɪ kəl/, adjective

Words nearby kakistocracy

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020


What does kakistocracy mean?

A kakistocracy is a government in which the worst people are in charge.

This obscure word is used in political commentary, especially to call out a government considered corrupt or incompetent.

Example: If you don’t vote, you’re basically asking for a kakistocracy, because of course the worst people want to be in power.

Where does kakistocracy come from?

You probably know that the Greek root -cracy refers to “government” or “rule” because of the -cracies you’ve heard of: democracy, aristocracy, bureaucracy. But kakistocracy? The first part of the word comes from the Greek kákisto(s), meaning “worst.” So kakistocracy means “government by the worst.”

The earliest known use of the word was in the 1600s by Paul Gosnold, a loyalist to King Charles I during the English Civil War. He gave a speech to Parliament warning of what could happen if the monarchy descended into kakistocracy (the king’s buddies always say that). Nearly 200 years later, in 1829, English novelist Thomas Love Peacock used the word in his book The Misfortunes of Elphin. Today, the word is mainly used in political commentary criticizing corrupt governments. It often shows up alongside other negative terms for forms of government, like plutocracy (rule by the rich) and oligarchy (rule by a powerful few).

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of kakistocracy?

  • kakistocratical

What are some words similar to kakistocracy?

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

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

How is kakistocracy used in real life?

Kakistocracy is rarely used, but when it does come up, it’s used primarily in political rhetoric.



Try using kakistocracy!

Which of the following words best describes rulers in a kakistocracy?

A. Corrupt
B. Incompetent
C. Greedy
D. All of the above