• synonyms


[proh-li-tair-ee-uh t]
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  1. the class of wage earners, especially those who earn their living by manual labor or who are dependent for support on daily or casual employment; the working class.
  2. (in Marxist theory) the class of workers, especially industrial wage earners, who do not possess capital or property and must sell their labor to survive.
  3. the lowest or poorest class of people, possessing no property, especially in ancient Rome.
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Origin of proletariat

1850–55; < French prolétariat; see proletary, -ate3
Related formsnon·pro·le·tar·i·at, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for proletariat

peasant, bourgeoisie, proletarian

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British Dictionary definitions for proletariat


  1. all wage-earners collectively
  2. the lower or working class
  3. (in Marxist theory) the class of wage-earners, esp industrial workers, in a capitalist society, whose only possession of significant material value is their labour
  4. (in ancient Rome) the lowest class of citizens, who had no property
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Word Origin for proletariat

C19: via French from Latin prōlētārius proletarian
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 proletariat


also proletariate, "the lowest class," 1853, from French prolétariat, from Latin proletarius (see proletarian). In political economics, "indigent wage-earners," from 1856. Leninist phrase dictatorship of the proletariat attested from 1918.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

proletariat in Culture



In Marxism, the industrial working class, people without property.

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A term often applied to industrial workers, particularly by followers of Karl Marx (see also Marx).

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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.