Printable Version
Pronunciation: aw-tahk-rê-see Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A form of government in which one person in a singular minority party is omnipotent, has complete control of the governance of an organization, absolutism, authoritarianism, dictatorship. 2. An organization with this form of governance.

Notes: This form of government has been at war with democracy around the world for centuries if not millennia. It comes with all the family of words ending on -cracy, including the adjective autocratic and the verb autocratize. Autocracy is the quality noun of autocrat, which refers to someone heading an autocracy.

In Play: Plato thought an autocracy with a "philosopher-king", i.e. an intelligent, well-educated autocrat was the best form of government. The problem with Plato's idea is that transitions from democracies to autocracies tend to produce leaders like Vladimir Putin, Benito Mussolini, and Adolph Hitler. Autocracy may also refer to countries: "Even autocracies like China and Russia can disagree over specific policies."

Word History: Today's Good Word is based on autocrat, borrowed from the French version, autocrate, of Greek autokrates. The Greek word is made up of autos "self, same" + -kratia "domination, government". Autos was widely and commonly used in ancient Greek, but how it came to be in Greek remains a mystery. Kratia, on the other hand, is based on kratos "power, might" or kratys "strong, mighty", which is the Greek rendition of PIE kar- "hard". This PIE word also went into the making of English hard and German hart, Greek karkinos "crab", Latin cancer "crab" (originally carcar), and Welsh carreg "stone".

Dr. Goodword,

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