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Alternative forms[edit]


bureau +‎ -cracy, from French bureaucratie, coined by Jean Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay from bureau (office) + -cratie (rule of)


  • (UK) IPA(key): /bjʊəˈɹɒkɹəsi/
    • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /bjʊˈɹɑːkɹəsi/


bureaucracy (countable and uncountable, plural bureaucracies)

  1. Government by bureaus or their administrators or officers.
    • 2021 December 29, Philip Haigh, “Rail's role in unifying Great Britain and Northern Ireland”, in RAIL, number 947, page 25:
      However, when Britain left the European Union, ferries started to ply a direct sea link from Ireland, to save hauliers from custom's bureaucracy of driving via Britain.
  2. (business, organizational theory) A system of administration based upon organisation into bureaus, division of labour, a hierarchy of authority, etc., designed to dispose of a large body of work in a routine manner.
    At that time the administration replaced the system of patronage in the civil service with a bureaucracy.
  3. The body of officers and administrators, especially of a government.
    The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy. (apocryphal quip)
  4. (chiefly derogatory) Excessive red tape and routine in any administration, body or behaviour.
    The head of the civil service promised to clamp down on bureaucracy.
    • 2020 May 20, Andrew Haines talks to Stefanie Foster, “Repurpose rail for the 2020s”, in Rail, page 35:
      "If we can capture anything from this awful situation, it is that ability to trust people to do certain things for themselves and to look out for each other, and to give them the tools to do their job as well as they can without having to go through endless bureaucracy to achieve it, which very often just delays and dilutes and doesn't add much value.


Derived terms[edit]


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