aristocracy

\ \ [16] Greek áristos meant ‘best’; hence aristocracy signifies, etymologically, ‘rule by the best’ (the suffix -cracy derives ultimately from Greek krátosstrength, power’, a relative of English hard). The term aristokratíā was used by Aristotle and Plato in their political writings, denoting ‘government of a state by those best fitted for the task’, and English writers perpetuated the usage when the word was borrowed from French aristocratie: Thomas Hobbes, for instance, wrote ‘Aristocracy is that, wherein the highest magistrate is chosen out of those that have had the best education’, Art of Rhetoric 1679. But from the first the term was also used in English for ‘rule by a privileged class’, and by the mid 17th century this had begun to pass into ‘the privileged class’ itself, ‘the nobility’. The derived aristocrat appeared at the end of the 18th century; it was a direct borrowing of French aristocrate, a coinage inspired by the French Revolution.
\ \ Cf.HARD

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

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  • Aristocracy — Ar is*toc ra*cy, n.; pl. {Aristocracies}. [Gr. ?; ? best + ? to be strong, to rule, ? strength; ? is perh. from the same root as E. arm, and orig. meant fitting: cf. F. aristocratie. See {Arm}, and {Create}, which is related to Gr. ?.] 1.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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  • aristocracy — (n.) 1560s, from M.Fr. aristocracie (Mod.Fr. aristocratie), from L.L. aristocratia, from Gk. aristokratia government or rule of the best, from aristos best (originally most fitting, from PIE *ar isto , superlative form of *ar to fit together; see …   Etymology dictionary

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  • aristocracy — ► NOUN (pl. aristocracies) ▪ a class comprising people of noble birth with hereditary titles. ORIGIN Greek aristokratia, from aristos best + kratia power …   English terms dictionary

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