a class of persons holding exceptional rank and privileges, especially the hereditary nobility.
a government or state ruled by an aristocracy, elite, or privileged upper class.
government by those considered to be the best or most able people in the state.
a governing body composed of those considered to be the best or most able people in the state.
any class or group considered to be superior, as through education, ability, wealth, or social prestige.
Contemporary Examples

Undoubtedly, the enormous inherited fortunes of the aristocracy facilitated a certain eccentricity.
The Death of the English Eccentric Tom Sykes November 24, 2014

Villains, perhaps, but villains dressed to be popped right into the British aristocracy.
Up To a Point: Robber Barons Make Way For Robber Nerds P. J. O’Rourke August 8, 2014

He quickly made a name for himself among the French aristocracy; among his patrons was Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III.
Cartier Retrospective Looks Back at 100 Years of Creating Bling for the Stars Chantel Tattoli December 9, 2013

In the original, [Francis] came from aristocracy and privilege, but the American mythology is coming from nothing.
David Fincher, Beau Willimon & Kate Mara On Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’ Jace Lacob January 29, 2013

The British aristocracy is littered with stories of unmitigated spendthrifts who seem bent on self-destruction.
The Secrets of Britain’s Wildest Aristocrats Tom Sykes October 19, 2014

Historical Examples

Never was it known that an aristocracy, which was haughty and tyrannical in one century, became easy and mild in the next.
The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, Vol. I. (of 12) Edmund Burke

He was sorry to see this tendency to aristocracy on the part of members.
Punchinello, Vol. 1, No. 7, May 14, 1870 Various

These much-isolated people look upon themselves as Nature’s aristocracy.
Frontier Folk George Booth

Such wisdom was altogether above the English aristocracy of that or any time.
The Man Shakespeare Frank Harris

As for those Egyptians who did not belong to this aristocracy, they had to be content with less expensive arrangements.
A history of art in ancient Egypt, Vol. I (of 2) Georges Perrot

noun (pl) -cies
a privileged class of people usually of high birth; the nobility
such a class as the ruling body of a state
government by such a class
a state governed by such a class
a class of people considered to be outstanding in a sphere of activity

1560s, from Middle French aristocracie (Modern French aristocratie), from Late Latin aristocratia, from Greek 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 arm (n.1)) + kratos “rule, power” (see -cracy).

At first in a literal sense of “government by those who are the best citizens;” meaning “rule by a privileged class” (best-born or best-favored by fortune) is from 1570s and became paramount 17c. Hence, the meaning “patrician order” (1650s). In early use contrasted with monarchy; after French and American revolutions, with democracy.

A privileged, primarily hereditary ruling class, or a form of government controlled by such an elite.

Note: Traditionally, the disproportionate concentration of wealth, social status, and political influence in the aristocracy has been resented by the middle class and lower class.

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