Legal Dictionary


Definition of democracy


    From Middle French democratie (French démocratie) < Mediaeval Latin democratia < Ancient Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratia), from δῆμος (dēmos), "common people") + κράτος (kratos), "rule, strength").


  • IPA: /dɪˈmɒkɹəsi/


democracy (plural democracies)

  1. (uncountable) Rule by the people, especially as a form of government; either directly or through elected representatives (representative democracy).

    * 1866, J. Arthur Partridge, On Democracy, Trübner & Co., page 2:
    And the essential value and power of Democracy consists in this,-that it combines, as far as possible, power and organization ; THE SPIRIT, MANHOOD, is at one with THE BODY, ORGANIZATION. [....] Democracy is Government by the People.

    * 1901, The American Historical Review, American Historical Association, page 260:
    The period, that is, which marks the transition from absolutism or aristocracy to democracy will mark also the transition from absolutist or autocratic methods of nomination to democratic methods.

    * 1921, James Bryce Bryce, Modern Democracies, The Macmillan Company, page 1:
    A century ago there was in the Old World only one tiny spot in which the working of democracy could be studied. A few of the ancient rural cantons of Switzerland had recovered their freedom after the fall of Napoleon, and were governing themselves as they had done from the earlier Middle Ages[...]. Nowhere else in Europe did the people rule.

  2. (countable, government) A government under the direct or representative rule of the people of its jurisdiction.

    * 2003, Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad, W. W. Norton & Company, page 13:
    In 1900 not a single country had what we would today consider a democracy: a government created by elections in which every adult citizen could vote.

  3. (uncountable) Belief in political freedom and equality; the "spirit of democracy".

    * 1918, Charles Horton Cooley, "A Primary Culture for Democracy", in Publications of the American Sociological Society 13, p8
    As states of the human spirit democracy, righteousness, and faith have much in common and may be cultivated by the same means...

    * 1919, TomᚠGarrigue Masaryk, The Spirit of Russia: Studies in History, Literature and Philosophy, Macmillan, p446
    It must further be admitted that he provided a successful interpretation of democracy in its philosophic aspects when he conceived democracy as a general outlook on the universe... In Bakunin's conception of democracy as religious in character we trace the influence of French socialism.

    * 1996, Petre Roman, The Spirit of Democracy and the Fabric of NATO - The New European Democracies and NATO Enlargement, p1
    The spirit of democracy means, above all, liberty of choice for human beings... democracy, in both its individual and collective forms, is the main engine of the eternal human striving for justice and prosperity.

Coordinate terms

  • (a form of government): monarchy, aristocracy, dictatorship


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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