[ ploo-tok-ruh-see ]
/ pluˈtɒk rə si /
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noun, plural plu·toc·ra·cies.
the rule or power of wealth or of the wealthy.
a government or state in which the wealthy class rules.
a class or group ruling, or exercising power or influence, by virtue of its wealth.
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Origin of plutocracy

1645–55; <Greek ploutokratía, equivalent to ploûto(s) wealth + -kratia-cracy
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does plutocracy mean?

Plutocracy is a term for a government in which wealthy people use their wealth to rule.

This can mean that wealthy people are the actual leaders, or that they influence or control the decisions that the leaders make. Plutocracy is never used as an official term for a form of government (like democracy is, for example)—it’s almost always applied as a criticism of such situations. It is frequently used as a way of pointing out inequality and the powerful influence of the wealthy in politics and government.

A country that is thought to have a plutocratic government can also be referred to as a plutocracy, as in Many outsiders saw the nation as an oppressive plutocracy. 

Plutocracy can also refer to the power that this kind of wealth can allow, as in His latest column explains his belief that the government has been corrupted by plutocracy. 

It can also refer to the wealthy class that is using wealth to rule, as in The businessman was accused of being a member of the plutocracy. 

A wealthy person who rules or influences leaders in a plutocracy can be called a plutocrat.

Example: Average citizens are angry because they believe billionaires have turned the government into a plutocracy to benefit themselves.

Where does plutocracy come from?

The first records of the word plutocracy come from around 1650. It comes from the Greek ploutokratía. The first part of the word comes from ploûto(s), meaning “wealth.” (The name of the god Pluto of Greek mythology—for whom the dwarf planet is named—comes from the related Greek Ploutōn, meaning “the rich one.”) The second part of the word comes from the Greek -kratia, which means “rule” or “power” and gives us the suffix -cracy, which is used in many terms for forms of government, such as democracy and bureaucracy.

In a plutocracy, rich people have the power. Plutocracy does not imply a specific political doctrine or philosophy. Instead, the term is often used to imply that such a system leads to corruption and oppression—no matter what the official form of government is or what the specific politics of its leaders are.

Plutocracy is often used alongside other critical terms for corrupt or unjust forms of government, such as oligarchy (a system in which power is held by a small group of people) and autocracy (a government in which one person has unlimited power).

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What are some other forms related to plutocracy?

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

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

How is plutocracy used in real life?

Plutocracy is almost always used in a critical way. It usually implies that such forms of government lead to corruption or the oppression of the poor.

Try using plutocracy!

True or False?

A plutocracy is a system in which power is held by religious leaders.

How to use plutocracy in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for plutocracy

/ (pluːˈtɒkrəsɪ) /

noun plural -cies
the rule or control of society by the wealthy
a state or government characterized by the rule of the wealthy
a class that exercises power by virtue of its wealth

Derived forms of plutocracy

plutocratic (ˌpluːtəˈkrætɪk) or plutocratical, adjectiveplutocratically, adverb

Word Origin for plutocracy

C17: from Greek ploutokratia government by the rich, from ploutos wealth + -kratia rule, power
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 plutocracy

[ (plooh-tok-ruh-see) ]

Government by the rich. The term is usually one of reproach.

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.