noun, plural ol·i·gar·chies.

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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for oligarchy

Contemporary Examples of oligarchy

Historical Examples of oligarchy

  • Thus much of the origin,—let us next consider the evils of oligarchy.

  • Tyranny springs from democracy much as democracy springs from oligarchy.

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

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

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

British Dictionary definitions for oligarchy


noun plural -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 Formsoligarchic or oligarchical, adjectiveoligarchically, adverb

Word Origin for oligarchy

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

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

oligarchy in Culture


[(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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.