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13 Essential Literary Terms

aristocracy

[ar-uh-stok-ruh-see] /ˌær əˈstɒk rə si/
noun, plural aristocracies.
1.
a class of persons holding exceptional rank and privileges, especially the hereditary nobility.
2.
a government or state ruled by an aristocracy, elite, or privileged upper class.
3.
government by those considered to be the best or most able people in the state.
4.
a governing body composed of those considered to be the best or most able people in the state.
5.
any class or group considered to be superior, as through education, ability, wealth, or social prestige.
Origin
1555-1565
1555-65; (< Middle French aristocratie) < Medieval Latin aristocracia (variant of -tia) < Greek aristokratía rule of the best. See aristo-, -cracy
Related forms
antiaristocracy, adjective, noun, plural antiaristocracies.
proaristocracy, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for aristocracy
  • The members of the aristocracy of mind produce ideas, and pass along knowledge.
  • All that counted now was the aristocracy of exposure.
  • These policies are something out of an aristocracy, not our democracy.
  • She grows up among the aristocracy, and elaborate palaces are her and her many siblings' playgrounds.
  • The planters have been called an aristocracy.
  • We are ready to grant all supporters privileges of the aristocracy.
  • Society consisted of a brave and barbaric aristocracy and the degraded serfs.
  • That was his ticket to the new aristocracy of proletarian cultural workers.
  • Almost 400 letters between mother and daughter draw the reader into the antebellum Southern aristocracy.
  • The aristocracy are the staff officers.
British Dictionary definitions for aristocracy

aristocracy

/ˌærɪˈstɒkrəsɪ/
noun (pl) -cies
1.
a privileged class of people usually of high birth; the nobility
2.
such a class as the ruling body of a state
3.
government by such a class
4.
a state governed by such a class
5.
a class of people considered to be outstanding in a sphere of activity
Word Origin
C16: from Late Latin aristocratia, from Greek aristokratia rule by the best-born, from aristos best; see -cracy
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for aristocracy
n.

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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aristocracy in Culture

aristocracy definition


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.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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