Printable Version
Pronunciation: di-mahk-rê-see Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Governance by the majority of the members of an organization or society. 2. A political or social organization that operates under such a system of governance.

Notes: Since the US and several other democratic nations are under threat by advocates of autocracy, I thought it appropriate to examine this familiar word today. It comes with all the family of words ending on -cracy: democratic, democratize, and democrat "someone favoring democracy". Of course, capitalized as Democrat, this word refers to members of the Democratic Party.

In Play: In the first sense above, today's word refers to a system of governance: "Lenin's, Mussolini's, and Hitler's fulminations against 'bourgeois democracy' are completely interchangeable." The second sense above can be heard in utterances like this: "The United States is the most fragile democracy on Earth because, with only two viable political parties, it is but one party away from an autocracy."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from a Latin version of Greek demokratia, made up of demos "people" + -kratia "domination, government". Demos is the Greek version of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) da-mos "people", a derivative of da- "to share, divide", found in Sanskrit dati "cuts, mows; divides", Persian das "sickle", and ancient Greek daios "hostile, destructive". -Kratia is based on kratos "power, might" or kratys "strong, mighty", which is the Greek rendition of PIE kar- "hard", which also went into the making of English hard, German hart, Greek karkinos "crab", Latin cancer "crab" (originally carcar), and Welsh carreg "stone".

Dr. Goodword,

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