Printable Version
Pronunciation: plu-tah-krê-si Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Government by the wealthy. 2. The wealthy class that controls a government. 3. A country or state ruled by the wealthy.

Notes: This word is derived from the noun, plutocrat, a member of a plutocracy, and serves as the basis for the adjective, plutocratic. It also has a verb, plutocratize. It is akin to plutodemocracy, a democracy where the wealthy have a disproportionate share of political power.

In Play: The difference between an oligarchy and a plutocracy is that the former is a plutocracy controlled by only a few oligarchs, like Russia today. Plutocracies limit voting only to the wealthy or give the wealthy inordinate power otherwise. Warren Buffet told the US Senate Finance Committee on November 14, 2007: "A progressive and meaningful estate tax is needed to curb the movement of a democracy toward plutocracy."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a modification of Greek ploutokratia "rule by the wealthy", which combines ploutos "wealth" + -kratia "rule". Ploutos is also the source of Greek Plouton "god of wealth", borrowed by Latin as Pluto. It derives from PIE pleu-/plou- "to flow; to swim", which emerged in Sanskrit as plavate "swims, flies", in Greek as plein "swim", in Latin as pluor "rain", in Russian as plavat' "swims, floats, sails", in Lithuanian as plauti "to wash, rinse", in Latvian plūdi "flood", in German fließen "flow" and Flut "flood", and in English as flow and flood. Kratia came from a metathesized version of PIE kar- "hard, strong", seen also in Irish craig "rock", and in Breton crag "rock". The unmetathesized version came to German hart "hard" and to English as hard. (Now let's all democratically thank Joakim Larsson of Sweden, an avid contributor by e-mail of remarkable Good Words like today's since 2014.)

Dr. Goodword,

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