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Derived, by analogy with monopoly, from Ancient Greek ὀλίγοι (olígoi, few) + πωλέω (pōléō, to sell). From oligo- +‎ -poly


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ɒlɪˈɡɒpəli/
    • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /ɑlɪˈɡɑpəli/


oligopoly (plural oligopolies)

  1. An economic condition in which a small number of sellers exert control over the market of a commodity.
    • 1866, Frederic Seebohm, “More drawn into Court. His Introduction to the "Utopia" (1516).”, in George Henry Lewes, editor, The Fortnightly Review[1], volume 6, London: Chapman and Hall, translation of original by Thomas More, The Oxford Reformers of 1498., page 489:
      For tho sheep are falling into few and powerful hands; and these, if they have not a monopoly, have at least an oligopoly, and can keep up the price.
    • 1895, Ralph Robynson, “The Fyrste Boke”, in Joseph Hirst Lupton, editor, The Utopia of Sir Thomas More: In Latin from the Edition of March 1518, and in English from the 1st Ed. of Ralph Robynson's Translation in 1551[2], Oxford: Clarendon Press, translation of original by Thomas More, Preliminary Matter from Robynson's Translation, page 55:
      [footnote 2] We have ' monopoly,' but not ' oligopoly ' (the sale by a few), and so cannot preserve the point of the sentence.
    • 1907, G. Macloskie, “General Literature”, in The Princeton Theological Review[3], volume 5, Princeton: Princeton University Press, Recent Literature, page 352:
      The specialist offices have it all to themselves; not a 'monopoly', but an 'oligopoly', if we may coin the term.
    • 2006, Edwin Black, chapter 2, in Internal Combustion[4]:
      But through the oligopoly, charcoal fuel proliferated throughout London's trades and industries.  By the 1200s, brewers and bakers, tilemakers, glassblowers, pottery producers, and a range of other craftsmen all became hour-to-hour consumers of charcoal.  This only magnified the indispensable nature of the oligopolists.

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