aristocracy


[ad_1] noun, plural ar·is·toc·ra·cies.
  1. a class of persons holding exceptional rank and privileges, especially the hereditary nobility.
  2. a government or state ruled by an aristocracy, elite, or privileged upper class.
  3. government by those considered to be the best or most able people in the state.
  4. a governing body composed of those considered to be the best or most able people in the state.
  5. any class or group considered to be superior, as through education, ability, wealth, or social prestige.

noun plural -cies

  1. a privileged class of people usually of high birth; the nobility
  2. such a class as the ruling body of a state
  3. government by such a class
  4. a state governed by such a class
  5. a class of people considered to be outstanding in a sphere of activity
n.

1560s, from Middle French aristocracie (Modern French aristocratie), from Late Latin aristocratia, from Greek aristokratia “government or rule of the best,” from aristos “best” (originally “most fitting,” from PIE *ar-isto-, superlative form of *ar- “to fit together;” see arm (n.1)) + kratos “rule, power” (see -cracy).

At first in a literal sense of “government by those who are the best citizens;” meaning “rule by a privileged class” (best-born or best-favored by fortune) is from 1570s and became paramount 17c. Hence, the meaning “patrician order” (1650s). In early use contrasted with monarchy; after French and American revolutions, with democracy.

A privileged, primarily hereditary ruling class, or a form of government controlled by such an elite.

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