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[byoo-rok-ruh-see] /byʊˈrɒk rə si/
noun, plural bureaucracies.
government by many bureaus, administrators, and petty officials.
the body of officials and administrators, especially of a government or government department.
excessive multiplication of, and concentration of power in, administrative bureaus or administrators.
administration characterized by excessive red tape and routine.
1810-20; bureau + -cracy, modeled on French bureaucratie Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for bureaucracy
  • Nationalizing the public school system would simply entrench the bureaucracy even further.
  • He says that ideology and bureaucracy are to blame.
  • He vowed to reduce the bureaucracy by thousands this year, and even more next.
  • This is hardly unique to military bureaucracy.
  • Fighting corruption and fighting bureaucracy have to go hand in hand.
  • Louis used the bourgeoisie to build his centralized bureaucracy.
  • The chief immediate cause was the conditions of red-tape bureaucracy.
  • Part of the answer has to be sought in the labyrinthine workings of a bureaucracy.
  • Navigating the byways of government bureaucracy is seldom easy.
  • There are few who doubt the bureaucracy was trimmed in an era of fiscal crisis.
British Dictionary definitions for bureaucracy


noun (pl) -cies
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
government by such a system
government or other officials collectively
any administration in which action is impeded by unnecessary official procedures and red tape
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 bureaucracy

1818, from French bureaucratie, coined by French economist Jean Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay (1712-1759) on model of democratie, aristocratie, from bureau "office," literally "desk" (see bureau) + Greek suffix -kratia denoting "power of" (see -cracy).

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]

bureaucrat, &c. The formation is so barbarous that all attempt at self-respect in pronunciation may perhaps as well be abandoned. [Fowler]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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bureaucracy in Culture
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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