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Borrowed from Middle French aristocratie, from Medieval Latin aristocratia, from Ancient Greek ἀριστοκρατίᾱ (aristokratíā, the rule of the best“, that is, “the best-born”, “nobility), from ἄριστος (áristos, best, noblest) + -κρατίᾱ (-kratíā), from κράτος (krátos, power, rule). By surface analysis, aristo- +‎ -cracy.



aristocracy (countable and uncountable, plural aristocracies)

  1. The nobility, or the hereditary ruling class.
    • 1905, G.K. Chesterton, Heretics:
      But when Nietzsche has the incredible lack of humour and lack of imagination to ask us to believe that his aristocracy is an aristocracy of strong muscles or an aristocracy of strong wills, it is necessary to point out the truth. It is an aristocracy of weak nerves.
    • 1791, Thomas Paine, Rights of Man:
      That, then, which is called aristocracy in some countries and nobility in others arose out of the governments founded upon conquest.
  2. Government by such a class, or a state with such a government
    • 1834, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], chapter XXIII, in Francesca Carrara. [], volume II, London: Richard Bentley, [], (successor to Henry Colburn), →OCLC, page 255:
      How many false principles have been laid down, how much delusion supported, by reference to the glories of Athens and of Rome! It remained for a later time to observe that those so-called republics were but aristocracy in its most oppressive form; and what are now the people were then positive slaves;...
  3. A class of people considered (not normally universally) superior to others

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