Definition of oligarchy in English:



  • 1A small group of people having control of a country or organization.

    ‘the ruling oligarchy of military men around the president’
    • ‘The war is a policy supported by and conducted in the interests of a ruling oligarchy that both major parties represent and defend.’
    • ‘The real power in U.S. political parties flows as money from the corporate oligarchy to a party oligarchy.’
    • ‘Businesses created by the Internet are undermining the control of traditional business-government oligarchies.’
    • ‘We must break the present supranational controls over nation-states, by the financial oligarchy.’
    • ‘The corporation controlled by the financial oligarchy eclipses the modern state and replaces the legal framework within which even the most authoritarian state operates with its sole Law - the urge for profit.’
    • ‘Team Progressives is trying to take over the UNC, which will mean the parasitic oligarchy will take control.’
    • ‘At home, war will exacerbate social polarization as an ever-greater share of the national income is transferred to both the financial oligarchy and the military.’
    • ‘Since independence, the blue in the flag has symbolized support for the ruling oligarchy, while the red has symbolized support for communism or resistance.’
    • ‘Venice was controlled by a financier oligarchy.’
    • ‘Since the political system validates the commercial order, the oligarchy is vulnerable to a reassertion of control by the owners of public institutions.’
    • ‘You organize the world into different religions, and then set the religions to fight each other, as a way a small power, an oligarchy, can control the world: setting one group of people against the other.’
    • ‘Whether at home or overseas, the US government serves the interests of the financial oligarchy that controls both the Democrats and the Republicans.’
    • ‘No longer will this planet be controlled by financier oligarchies controlling central banking systems, and dictating to governments, what governments can and can not do.’
    • ‘The way it controlled the subject peoples, the way the empires of Mesopotamia, in their time, controlled subject peoples: How does a small oligarchy control a large mass of people?’
    • ‘Thus it created an outlet for the social concerns of these groups while enabling the party oligarchy to retain control over the competing sectors within the single movement.’
    • ‘The oligarchy's determination to control extended well beyond the political arena to pervade all aspects of social life in the city.’
    • ‘He went on to say that the demonstrations, and the fact that the war was being carried out despite such enormous opposition, expressed the deep chasm that exists between a ruling oligarchy and the vast majority of the world's population.’
    • ‘He and the Democrats have adopted a reactionary platform not because they think it is necessary to win the popular vote, but because such a program is required by the financial oligarchy that controls both major political parties.’
    • ‘More and more, a financial oligarchy has wrested control of society.’
    • ‘The power resided in an oligarchy, a financier oligarchy, which were the leading families of Venice, who were, in their financial aspect, called fondi, or funds.’
    1. 1.1A country governed by an oligarchy.
      ‘he believed that Britain was an oligarchy’
      • ‘This too prevented an oligarchy from developing in Israel as it had in ancient Canaanite society.’
      • ‘For more than a millennium, until its fall in 1797, the Republic of Venice was governed by an oligarchy, comprising a limited number of patrician families.’
      • ‘Ancient Athens emerged from tyranny for about 100 years and then self-destructed and the Roman republic was never more than an oligarchy until it too became an empire.’
      • ‘This happened because Britain alone had a culture of individualism which regarded individual property ownership as the natural state for everything - and it was governed by an oligarchy of property owners.’
      • ‘We are turning back toward an oligarchy that this country should never have.’
      • ‘The Caliphate became a monarchy, first absolute, then nominal, controlled by oligarchies, feudal lords, warlords, tribal chiefs and regional chieftains.’
      • ‘The result of short-term royal success in eviscerating local government was a system of degenerate petty oligarchies dependent on government initiative.’
      • ‘Egypt is a mock democracy, and Saudi Arabia is a theological monarchy oligarchy run by dictators called the Royal Family.’
      • ‘Switzerland was still controlled by cantonal oligarchies who would cede very little of their sovereignty to the Federal Diet or Federal Directory.’
      • ‘The Roman Republic was an oligarchy but there was some element of political participation by the lower classes - the votes were weighted so those of the rich counted for more than those of the poor, but there was voting nevertheless.’
      • ‘Analysis of the rhetorical strategies shows how prophetic religion in El Salvador was related to the political struggle between the oligarchy and the popular movements as the country descended into civil war.’
      • ‘Several oligarchies had laws against citizens making money in trade.’
    2. 1.2[mass noun]Government by an oligarchy.
      • ‘The city's artisans rebelled against the ruling oligarchy of merchants and nobles.’
      • ‘Generations of people around the world have endured autocracy and dictatorship, totalitarianism, fascism, monarchy, oligarchy and even anarchy without knowing freedom.’
      • ‘Most former European colonies began their independence as nominal democracies, then rapidly moved either to single-party oligarchies, military rule, or both at once.’
      • ‘Consequently it reflects, to a considerable extent, the political evolution of the nation, from governing monarchy, through oligarchy and aristocracy, to parliamentary democracy.’
      • ‘In a totalitarian regime or even an oligarchy we have a ruler, or a group of elites ruling over the masses.’
      • ‘Chile established a parliamentary style democracy in the late 19th century, but degenerated into a system protecting the interests of the ruling oligarchy.’
      • ‘But Sparta, the champion of oligarchies, set up an oligarchical regime whenever it took control of a city.’
      • ‘The leaders of the party and its principal organizations now formed a new oligarchy of privileged citizens.’
      • ‘The magnificent mobilisation of the workers which put an end to the coup of 11 April was a sharp reverse for the oligarchy and imperialism.’
      • ‘To all but the ruling oligarchy in China, Falun Gong looks like any other of countless sects and groups, benign and unthreatening.’
      • ‘He explains that the best state has a large number of these people of moderate wealth, because they will support neither an extreme oligarchy nor an extreme democracy.’
      • ‘Democracies are really oligarchies with a populist face.’
      • ‘As you all know, General Fabyein has made plans to abolish the oligarchy and take control of Hilajinn.’
      • ‘As monarchies, dictatorships, even oligarchies gradually are replaced by some form of government that is at least struggling to become democratic, we have all become aware of Tocqueville's prescience.’
      • ‘One answer may be that if you want a knowledge society, then it should preferably be a democracy, not a timocracy, an oligarchy or an intellectual dictatorship.’
      • ‘The Spartan constitution was mixed, containing elements of monarchy, oligarchy and democracy.’
      • ‘They were ruled by oligarchies or councils of elders, or some mixture of the two, and might therefore best be called tribal republics.’
      • ‘Your goal is to radically transform our constitutional republic into a judicial oligarchy operated by individuals with a leftist agenda.’
      • ‘According to Rhodes, ‘the political system of the South was an oligarchy under the republican form.’’
      • ‘Gone are the days when democracy was a window dressing for an oligarchy.’


Late 15th century: from Greek oligarkhia, from oligoi few and arkhein to rule.