noun, plural meritocracies.
an elite group of people whose progress is based on ability and talent rather than on class privilege or wealth.
a system in which such persons are rewarded and advanced: The dean believes the educational system should be a meritocracy.
leadership by able and talented persons.

1955–60; merit + -o- + -cracy

meritocratic [mer-i-tuh-krat-ik] , adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
meritocracy (ˌmɛrɪˈtɒkrəsɪ)
n , pl -cies
1.  rule by persons chosen not because of birth or wealth, but for their superior talents or intellect
2.  the persons constituting such a group
3.  a social system formed on such a basis

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

coined 1958 by Michael Young and used in title of his book, "The Rise of the Meritocracy"; from merit + ending from aristocracy, etc. Related: Meritocratic.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary
meritocracy [(mer-i-tok-ruh-see)]

A government or society in which citizens who display superior achievement are rewarded with positions of leadership. In a meritocracy, all citizens have the opportunity to be recognized and advanced in proportion to their abilities and accomplishments. The ideal of meritocracy has become controversial because of its association with the use of tests of intellectual ability, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, to regulate admissions to elite colleges and universities. Many contend that an individual's performance on these tests reflects his or her social class and family environment more than ability.

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
The promise of the meritocracy has not been fulfilled.
He represents the triumph of meritocracy in an increasingly open society.
The rough meritocracy of the network is what makes it so powerful and so giving.
It is tempting, then, to point to all these changes and proclaim that elite
  higher education is at long last a meritocracy.
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