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See also: Democracy


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From Middle French democratie (French démocratie), from Medieval Latin dēmocratia, from Ancient Greek δημοκρᾰτῐ́ᾱ (dēmokratíā).
By surface analysis, demo- (people) +‎ -cracy (rule).





democracy (countable and uncountable, plural democracies)

  1. (uncountable) Rule by the people, especially as a form of government; either directly or through elected representatives (representative democracy).
    • 1866, J. Arthur Partridge, On Democracy, Trübner & Co., page 2:
      And the essential value and power of Democracy consists in this,—that it combines, as far as possible, power and organization ; THE SPIRIT, MANHOOD, is at one with THE BODY, ORGANIZATION. [....] Democracy is Government by the People.
    • 1901, The American Historical Review, American Historical Association, page 260:
      The period, that is, which marks the transition from absolutism or aristocracy to democracy will mark also the transition from absolutist or autocratic methods of nomination to democratic methods.
    • 1921, James Bryce Bryce, Modern Democracies, The Macmillan Company, page 1:
      A century ago there was in the Old World only one tiny spot in which the working of democracy could be studied. A few of the ancient rural cantons of Switzerland had recovered their freedom after the fall of Napoleon, and were governing themselves as they had done from the earlier Middle Ages[...]. Nowhere else in Europe did the people rule.
    • 1994, Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, London: Abacus, published 2010, page 24:
      Everyone who wanted to speak did so. It was democracy in its purest form.
    • 2017 November 19, “Today in History”, in Radio Taiwan International[1], archived from the original on 10 September 2022[2]:
      On this day in 1977, Taiwan witnessed a watershed moment in its march to democracy: the Chungli Incident. Violence broke out on the night of the largest-yet elections in the country’s history. Some 10,000 people took to the streets in protest following reports of election fraud on the part of the ruling Kuomintang.
  2. (countable, government) A government under the direct or representative rule of the people of its jurisdiction.
    • 1947 March 16, Edwin L. James, “General Marshall Raises the Ideological Issue”, in The New York Times:
      Of course, the Russians think it is something else because they say the Russians have a democracy and it is plain that their government is not what the Americans regard as a democracy.
    • 2003, Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad, W. W. Norton & Company, page 13:
      In 1900 not a single country had what we would today consider a democracy: a government created by elections in which every adult citizen could vote.
  3. (countable) A state with a democratic system of government.
    • 2018 March, Yascha Mounk, “America Is Not a Democracy”, in The Atlantic:
      The United States was founded as a republic, not a democracy.
    • 2019 April 28, Hagai El-Ad, “What kind of democracy deports human rights workers?”, in Yoni Molad, transl., +972 Magazine[3]:
      Israel is not a democracy, as these elections proved once again. Democracy is the rule of the people, not the rule of one people over another.
    • 2002, Victor G. Hilliard, “The Role of Human Resource Development in South African Public Service Reform”, in Administrative Reform in Developing Nations, Praeger, page 179:
      After almost four decades of authoritarian rule, South Africa became a democracy in April 1994.
  4. (uncountable) Belief in political freedom and equality; the "spirit of democracy".
    • 1918, Charles Horton Cooley, “A Primary Culture for Democracy”, in Publications of the American Sociological Society 13, page 8:
      As states of the human spirit democracy, righteousness, and faith have much in common and may be cultivated by the same means...
    • 1919, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, The Spirit of Russia: Studies in History, Literature and Philosophy, Macmillan, page 446:
      It must further be admitted that he provided a successful interpretation of democracy in its philosophic aspects when he conceived democracy as a general outlook on the universe... In Bakunin's conception of democracy as religious in character we trace the influence of French socialism.
    • 1996, Petre Roman, The Spirit of Democracy and the Fabric of NATO - The New European Democracies and NATO Enlargement[4], page 1:
      The spirit of democracy means, above all, liberty of choice for human beings... democracy, in both its individual and collective forms, is the main engine of the eternal human striving for justice and prosperity.



Coordinate terms


Derived terms







  • democracy”, in OneLook Dictionary Search.
  • democracy in Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary, edited by The Keywords Project, Colin MacCabe, Holly Yanacek, 2018.
  • "democracy" in Raymond Williams, Keywords (revised), 1983, Fontana Press, page 93.
  • democracy”, in The Century Dictionary [], New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911, →OCLC.