Definition of aristocracy in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˌerəˈstäkrəsē/

noun (plural aristocracies)

[treated as singular] (or plural, usually the aristocracy)
1The highest class in certain societies, especially those holding hereditary titles or offices: the ancient Polish aristocracy had hereditary right to elect the king
More example sentences
  • Classes are obvious - there were the aristocracy, the middle class or bourgeois, and of course the peasantry or rustic class.
  • Scott's casual attitude to debt was certainly closer to that of the aristocracy than the middle class.
  • This step was taken much earlier in London, where the Philharmonic Society was founded by an élite of the aristocracy, gentry, City, and professions in 1813.
nobility, peerage, gentry, gentility, upper class, ruling class, elite, high society, establishment, haut monde;
aristocrats, lords, ladies, peers, peers of the realm, nobles, noblemen, noblewomen
informal upper crust, top drawer, aristos
1.1A form of government in which power is held by the nobility.
Example sentences
  • Aristotle produced a complex taxonomy of constitutions, the three main types of which are monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy.
  • Both argued that irrespective of the form of government, be it monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy, a relatively compact minority always ruled.
  • Aristotle pointed out in his book of lectures The Politics and in his studies of constitutions that aristocracy as an ideal too often degenerated into either oligarchy, the rule of the powerful, or plutocracy, the rule of the rich.
1.2A state governed by the aristocracy.
Example sentences
  • This would continue for some time in Byzantium and in Scandinavia, in polities of strong public power or weak aristocracies.
  • Early British occupation was disruptive: aristocracies lost power and influence to the new rulers, the conditions under which land was held could be changed, and taxation was more rigorously enforced.
  • Rather they reveal Tocqueville's fixation on the contrast between classes in aristocracies and democracies.
1.3A group regarded as privileged or superior in a particular sphere: high-level technocrats make up a large part of this “technical aristocracy.”
More example sentences
  • He dresses film stars, supermodels and the aristocracy of pop in clothes that are symbols of status and success.
  • In more recent years the new aristocracies of the pop world have changed the city's landscape in their own glamorous ways.
  • The marketing gurus have been the aristocracy of the sales-marketing community.


Aristocracy, oligarchy, and plutocracy are sometimes confused. All mean some form of rule by a small elite. Aristocracy is rule by a traditional elite, held to be made up of ‘the best’ people, and is usually hereditary. Oligarchy is literally rule by a few. Plutocracy is rule by the (necessarily few) very rich.


Late 15th century: from Old French aristocratie, from Greek aristokratia, from aristos 'best' + -kratia 'power'. The term originally denoted the government of a state by its best citizens, later by the rich and well-born, hence the sense 'nobility', regardless of the form of government (mid 17th century).

  • The term originally meant the government of a state by its best citizens, later by the rich and well born, which led, in the mid 17th century, to the sense ‘nobility’, regardless of the form of government. The origin is Old French aristocratie, from Greek aristokratia, from aristos ‘best’ and -kratia ‘power’.

Words that rhyme with aristocracy

adhocracy, autocracy, bureaucracy, democracy, gerontocracy, gynaecocracy (US gynecocracy), hierocracy, hypocrisy, meritocracy, mobocracy, monocracy, plutocracy, technocracy, theocracy

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ar·is·toc·ra·cy

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