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

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: Government by the worst, least competent citizens.

Notes: This word may strike some of you as poignantly relevant today. All governments at some point in their history seem to be run by the least competent among the population. 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 is leading this country deeper into a political swamp". Maybe your coconversationalist will think you said aristocracy. Don't forget the related words: "Jerry Mander is a kakistocrat par excellence: entering politics was an economic decision for him."

Word History: Today's Good Word has probably been around since the 17th century. 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 Greek derived from PIE kaka- "to defecate". Kaka- went into the making of poppycock, which English may have borrowed from American Dutch poppekak "doll's poop" from poppe "doll" + kak "poop". 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. He was reminded of its topicality recently by Lynn Maher, so let's thank her.)

Dr. Goodword,

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