One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A group or league of five provinces, sees, kingdoms, etc., each under its own ruler; the rulers of these collectively. Now chiefly historical.
2A governing body made up of five people, organizations, political parties, etc.
3A group or confederation of five leading nations.
4Figurative. A group or association of five related or dominant persons or things.
Late 16th century; earliest use found in Raphael Holinshed (c1525–?1580), historian. From ancient Greek πενταρχία a rule of five, with reference to the magistracy of the five at Carthage (from πεντα- + -αρχία); perhaps via Middle French, French pentarchie.
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