Word of the Week: Oligarchy

Word: oligarchy

Pronunciation: AH-lə-ɡahr-kee

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


It’s Independence Day in the US tomorrow, so why not take this opportunity to learn a new political word? Today’s Word of the Week is one I’ve been meaning to write about for a while, and now that some might say it’s more relevant than ever, it’s a good time to finally add it to the list! We love to believe in the idea of democracy, a government of the people, but sometimes the reality seems more like a select few are calling all the shots. In a nation where the wants of the few outweigh the needs of the many, we can only be living in an “oligarchy”!

An “oligarchy” is a form of government in which a small group of people control an entire country, institution, or organization. The word arose in the late 15th century and comes from the Greek noun oligarkhía, meaning “rule of few”. This noun comprises the adjective olígos “few” and the noun arkhḗ “authority”.

Historically, an “oligarchy” has usually been characterized as tyrannical and oppressive in nature, with power belonging to minorities distinguished by such criteria as nobility, wealth, or religious influence. Aristotle first used the word synonymously with “rule by the rich”, a definition that many critics still use in reference to certain modern governments. If your stories are set in a fictional world ruled by a small but powerful group, you’ve definitely created an “oligarchy”!

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

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