bureaucracy

[byoo-rok-ruh-see]
noun, plural bureaucracies.
1.
government by many bureaus, administrators, and petty officials.
2.
the body of officials and administrators, especially of a government or government department.
3.
excessive multiplication of, and concentration of power in, administrative bureaus or administrators.
4.
administration characterized by excessive red tape and routine.

Origin:
1810–20; bureau + -cracy, modeled on French bureaucratie

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
bureaucracy (bjʊəˈrɒkrəsɪ)
 
n , pl -cies
1.  a system of administration based upon organization into bureaus, division of labour, a hierarchy of authority, etc: designed to dispose of a large body of work in a routine manner
2.  government by such a system
3.  government or other officials collectively
4.  any administration in which action is impeded by unnecessary official procedures and red tape

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

bureaucracy
1818, from Fr. bureaucratie, from bureau "office," lit. "desk" (see bureau) + Gk. suffix -kratia denoting "power of;" coined by Fr. economist Jean Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay (1712-1759) on model of democratie, aristocratie.
"That vast net-work of administrative tyranny ... that system of bureaucracy, which leaves no free agent in all France, except for the man at Paris who pulls the wires." [J.S. Mill, "Westminster Review" XXVIII, 1837]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary
bureaucracy [(byoo-rok-ruh-see)]

A formal, hierarchical organization with many levels in which tasks, responsibilities, and authority are delegated among individuals, offices, or departments, held together by a central administration. According to many sociologists and anthropologists, the development of bureaucratic organizations is necessary for the emergence of any modern civilization. (See Max Weber.)

Note: Today, the term bureaucracy suggests a lack of initiative, excessive adherence to rules and routine, red tape, inefficiency, or, even more serious, an impersonal force dominating the lives of individuals. (See Big Brother is watching you.)
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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Example sentences
Administrations and campus bureaucracies can be bloated and inefficient.
It seems to be a backward process rather than productive that can be distorted
  by bureaucracies.
It's not a techno thriller, heavy on great bureaucracies colliding.
Standing armies get larger, not smaller, and bureaucracies grow rather than
  shrink.
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