[ mon-er-kee ]
/ ˈmɒn ər ki /
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noun, plural mon·ar·chies.
a state or nation in which the supreme power is actually or nominally lodged in a monarch.Compare absolute monarchy, limited monarchy.
supreme power or sovereignty held by a single person.


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Origin of monarchy

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English monarchie, from Late Latin monarchia, from Greek monarchía. See monarch, -y3

synonym study for monarchy

1. See kingdom.


an·ti·mon·ar·chy, adjectivepro·mon·ar·chy, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What is a monarchy?

A monarchy is a form of government in which the supreme power is held by one person, either officially or ceremonially.

In a monarchy, one person rules the government, and no human is above them in power. The ruler of a monarchy is called a monarch, and their position is nearly always hereditary, meaning that a member of their family will inherit their position when they die or willingly give up their power (known as abdicitation).

Throughout history, monarchies have been a relatively common form of government. The ancient Egyptian pharaohs, the Roman and Chinese emperors, and the large number of European kings and queens ruled over monarchies.

There are two major types of monarchies:

  • In an absolute monarchy, the supreme ruler has total, unlimited power. Nobody can tell them what to do, and they can order their people to do anything they want. This form of monarchy was more common in the past than it is today. Some examples of modern countries with this form of monarchy are Swaziland and Saudi Arabia.
  • In a limited monarchy or constitutional monarchy, the supreme ruler has limits on what they are actually able to do. Usually, their power is determined by a written constitution or a governing body that can restrain the actions they want to do. Of the monarchies that still exist today, most of them are limited monarchies, including those found in the United Kingdom and Norway.

Why is monarchy important?

The first records of the word monarchy come from around 1300. It ultimately comes from the Greek monarchía. Actual monarchies are much older than this, with the early Sumer and Egyptian monarchies beginning thousands of years ago.

For most monarchies throughout history, a ruler’s power was believed to have been given to them by God or another divine being. Interestingly, this was true in many kingdoms across the world, regardless of culture or religion. This went a long way to preventing rebellions or uprisings.

There are around 44 countries led by monarchies today, the majority of which are constitutional monarchies. Most modern monarchs have traditional or ceremonial positions and have little to no power to actually control the government.

Did you know … ?

Japan’s Yamato dynasty claims to be the world’s oldest monarchy that still survives today. According to Japanese legends, the Yamato have ruled since the 500s. The current Japanese emperor, Akihito, claims to be the 125th emperor in Japanese history and a direct descendent of the legendary first emperor of Japan, Jimmu.

What are real-life examples of monarchy?

Monarchies are one of the types of government that still exist today.

What other words are related to monarchy?

Quiz yourself!

In a monarchy, supreme power is held by:

A. one person
B. a council of elders
C. a parliament
D. a family

How to use monarchy in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for monarchy

/ (ˈmɒnəkɪ) /

noun plural -chies
a form of government in which supreme authority is vested in a single and usually hereditary figure, such as a king, and whose powers can vary from those of an absolute despot to those of a figurehead
a country reigned over by a king, prince, or other monarch
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 monarchy

[ (mon-uhr-kee, mon-ahr-kee) ]

A system of government in which one person reigns, usually a king or queen. The authority, or crown, in a monarchy is generally inherited. The ruler, or monarch, is often only the head of state, not the head of government. Many monarchies, such as Britain and Denmark, are actually governed by parliaments. (See absolute monarchy and constitutional monarchy.)

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.