Quiz: Remember the definition of mal de mer?
1560s, from Middle French aristocracie (Modern French aristocratie), from Late Latin aristocratia, from Greek aristokratia "government or rule of the best," from aristos "best" (originally "most fitting," from PIE *ar-isto-, superlative form of *ar- "to fit together;" see arm (n.1)) + kratos "rule, power" (see -cracy).
At first in a literal sense of "government by those who are the best citizens;" meaning "rule by a privileged class" (best-born or best-favored by fortune) is from 1570s and became paramount 17c. Hence, the meaning "patrician order" (1650s). In early use contrasted with monarchy; after French and American revolutions, with democracy.
A privileged, primarily hereditary ruling class, or a form of government controlled by such an elite.
Note: Traditionally, the disproportionate concentration of wealth, social status, and political influence in the aristocracy has been resented by the middle class and lower class.