Word: kakistocracy

Pronunciation: ka-ki-STAH-krə-see

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: government by the least suitable or competent citizens of a state

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Happy Presidents’ Day! To celebrate, here’s a new political word to add to your vocabulary. Yes, I know I said I don’t like getting political on my blog, but with so many interesting words floating around my news feeds these days, I couldn’t pass up the chance to feature a few more of them in my Word of the Week segment! Don’t ask me where I found this one (not that it isn’t obvious); I just thought it was so eye-catching that I had to write about it here. It’s definitely relevant for many people this year; I’m sure none of us expected to be faced with the possibility of a “kakistocracy” in our lifetimes!

A “kakistocracy” is a government run by the least competent or suitable citizens of a state. The word arose in English in the early 19th century and was coined by English author Thomas Love Peacock as an antonym for “aristocracy” (in the sense “government of a state by its best citizens”). This noun comprises two Ancient Greek roots: the adjective kákistos “worst” and the noun krátos “power”.

Whenever I read the word “kakistocracy”, the first image that comes to mind is a dystopian society. What else would you expect from a government run by the least qualified people imaginable? The word certainly seems fitting for fiction about states on the verge of collapse, though it’s more terrifying to think it’s becoming common in nonfiction media. If your story is set in a world run by an incompetent government, you may have created your own “kakistocracy”!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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