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kakistocracy

Printable Version Pronunciation: kæ-ki-stah-crê-si Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: Government by the worst, least competent citizens

Notes: This word may strike some of you as irrelevant: all governments at some point in time seem to be run by the least competent. However, this is just to let you know that there is a word for it. The adjective is kakistocratic(al), and the adverb, as we might expect, is kakistocratically. A participant in a kakistocracy is a kakistocrat. The Ks are usually rendered in English as Cs, as in cacodemon and cacography, so all these words are relatives.

In Play: Today we have a word that offers ample opportunity for play. "The kakistocracy has put this country where it is." Maybe your coconversationalist will think you said "aristocracy". Don't forget the related words: "Jerry Mander is a kakistocrat in a class all his own; entering politics was an economic decision for him."

Word History: Today's Good Word has probably been around since the 17th century. We have a published instance of the adjective Kakistocraticall [sic] in 1641. It was coined as the opposite of aristocracy, which is made up of Greek aristos "best" + cratia "rule". Today's word was coined by combining kakistos "worst" + cratia "rule". Kakistos is the superlative of kakos "bad", which was discussed in both the Good Words beginning on caco- mentioned above. Cratia comes from kratos "strength, power, rule", a word that goes back to Proto-Indo-European kar- "hard" plus a suffix -t. By the time this formation had reached English, via its parental Germanic languages, it still had the original PIE meaning: hard. (Dr. Goodword came across this word while updating the Lexiteria's English word frequency list. Gratitude today is optional.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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