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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ But the municipal oligarchy was too weak to pursue its course for long, and eventually came to terms with the state.
▪ However, because of the opposition of a still-powerful landed oligarchy, the effects of the legislation were diluted.
▪ In Britain the big cities were notoriously in the hands of the oligarchy of local businessmen.
▪ Perhaps inevitably, with such wealth and diversity an oligarchy of local tradesman emerged, organised into a merchant guild.
▪ The corrupt types include tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy.
▪ The struggle is probably better understood as one between a dominant oligarchy and those whom they excluded from power.
▪ These educational institutions suffer from very poor standards and give tacit or open support to the oligarchy.
▪ Whenever oligarchy took over from democracy, pay for office was one of the first things to be abolished.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Oligarchy \Ol"i*gar"chy\, n.; pl. Oligarchies. [Gr. ?; 'oli`gos few, little + 'a`rchein to rule, govern: cf. F. oligarchie.] A form of government in which the supreme power is placed in the hands of a few persons; also, those who form the ruling few.

All oligarchies, wherein a few men domineer, do what they list.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1570s, from Middle French oligarchie (14c.), from Greek oligarkhia "government by the few," from stem of oligos "few, small, little" (see oligo-) + arkhein "to rule" (see archon).


n. 1 A government run by only a few, often the wealthy. 2 Those who make up an oligarchic government. 3 A state ruled by such a government.


n. a political system governed by a few people


Oligarchy (; ) is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people might be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, religious or military control. Such states are often controlled by a few prominent families who typically pass their influence from one generation to the next, but inheritance is not a necessary condition for the application of this term.

Throughout history, oligarchies have often been tyrannical, relying on public obedience or oppression to exist. Aristotle pioneered the use of the term as a synonym for rule by the rich, for which another term commonly used today is plutocracy.

Especially during the fourth century BC, after the restoration of democracy from oligarchical coups, the Athenians used the drawing of lots for selecting government officers in order to counteract what the Athenians saw as a tendency toward oligarchy in government if a professional governing class were allowed to use their skills for their own benefit. They drew lots from large groups of adult volunteers that pick selection technique for civil servants performing judicial, executive, and administrative functions (archai, boulē, and hēliastai). They even used lots for posts, such as judges and jurors in the political courts (nomothetai), which had the power to overrule the Assembly.

Usage examples of "oligarchy".

The oligarchic character of the modern English commonwealth does not rest, like many oligarchies, on the cruelty of the rich to the poor.

Thus the modern oligarchist has made a virtue for the oligarchy of the hardness as well as the brightness of the diamond.

So we bow to nature and return home to report our victory to the Oligarchy in Askitosh.

This might be observed, if in no other way, from the welcome given to a rash of posters from the presses of the Oligarchy at present flooding the cities of Uskutoshk.

Priest-Militant took my oath of fealty to the Oligarchy when I was made captain.

It was aimed at doing away with the more bohemian quarters of the city, where the Oligarchy found no favour.

Once more, the Uskuti were demonstrating their racial prejudices - prejudices of which the Oligarchy was quick to take advantage.

Then the great families of the seven Sibornalese nations had joined together to form an Oligarchy, in an attempt to rule the continent on rational and scientific lines, as proposed by King Denniss.

All the acts and edicts promulgated by the Oligarchy were backed by rational argument.

He was accumulating a case against the Oligarchy, discovering just how the authoritarian grip on the Northern Continent had increased over the sleepy centuries of autumn.

The Oligarchy is secret, and the names of the Members and the Oligarch are kept secret, so that no one knows them.

Now that the Year was declining, the Oligarchy was busy tightening the reins of its power - bringing in its own kind of darkness.

Both Oligarchy and common people understood that winter, setting in steadily, could burst society apart like a frozen water pipe.

You resent the Oligarchy because, through its pressures, you had to enter the army.

As for the Oligarchy not sleeping: anyone who went without sleep was by definition inhuman, and therefore as opposed to humanity as the phagors.