Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A hereditary ruling class; nobility.
  • n. Government by a ruling class.
  • n. A state or country having this form of government.
  • n. Government by the citizens deemed to be best qualified to lead.
  • n. A state having such a government.
  • n. A group or class considered superior to others.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The nobility, or the hereditary ruling class
  • n. Government by such a class, or a state with such a government
  • n. A class of people considered (not normally universally) superior to others

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Government by the best citizens.
  • n. A ruling body composed of the best citizens.
  • n. A form a government, in which the supreme power is vested in the principal persons of a state, or in a privileged order; an oligarchy.
  • n. The nobles or chief persons in a state; a privileged class or patrician order; (in a popular use) those who are regarded as superior to the rest of the community, as in rank, fortune, or intellect.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Government by the best men in the state; a governing body composed of the best men in the state.
  • n. A form of government in which the supreme power is exercised by those members of the state who are distinguished by their rank and opulence.
  • n. A body of persons holding exceptional prescriptive rank or privileges; specifically, a class of hereditary nobility; the nobles of a country and those nearly related to them.
  • n. Persons noted for superiority in any character or quality, taken collectively: as, the aristocracy of wealth or of culture.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the most powerful members of a society
  • n. a privileged class holding hereditary titles

Etymologies

Late Latin aristocratia, government by the best, from Greek aristokratiā : aristos, best; see ar- in Indo-European roots + -kratiā, -cracy.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French aristocracie, from Medieval Latin *aristocracia, from Ancient Greek άριστοκρατία (aristokratia, "the rule of the best"), from ἄριστος (áristos, "best, noblest") + -κρατία (kratia), from κράτος (kratos, "power, rule") (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Let no one exclaim against aristocracy; were we all perfectly _equal to-day_, there would be an _aristocracy to-morrow_.

    Sanders' Union Fourth Reader

  • The agenda of the aristocracy is the destruction of western civilization.

    What the Hell is going on?

  • Rousseau's preference was for what he calls aristocracy, a government of the most wise and experienced.

    The Eve of the French Revolution

  • On one side the ultras, whose objection to transfer a portion of the Royal authority to what they call the aristocracy, occupy nearly all the posts which influence the operations of the electoral assemblies.

    Memoirs To Illustrate The History Of My Time Volume 1

  • "You have no doubt remarked," said Florestan, with a smile, "that the persons assembled here this evening do not belong to what we call the aristocracy --"

    A Cardinal Sin

  • Throw the whole our way or the highway rant out the window and look where America's new aristocracy is holding thier winter meeting.

    RNC members draft new 'socialist' resolution

  • The Latin American aristocracy - for the most part, and for most of the last two centuries - has combined the worst aspects of aristocracy with the worst aspects of capitalism, and has exhibited the better aspects of neither one.

    Matthew Yglesias » US vs Zimbabwe

  • The word aristocracy appeared late in our language, arriving via France in the mid-sixteenth century.

    'Aristocrats'

  • If you want that maybe you should hop in a time machine and go back to pre-revolutionary France where aristocracy is the goverment of choice.

    Dodd: Obama, Clinton ticket not likely

  • The purpose of government in an aristocracy is to protect wealth and privilege.

    No blank checks for crooks

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