Meaning of aristocracy and connotation of wealth:

Must an aristocrat be wealthy?

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    Why do you ask? Did a dictionary definition or research lead you to your question? You will need to provide more background or detail. Dictionary definition alone does not seem to specify wealth by itself, rather more of a social or political status, which of course could make you wealthy. – user3169 Sep 27 '14 at 22:38


There are several scenarios that lead to having poor aristocrats. For example:

  • "Genteel poverty". An aristocrat (or an aristocratic family) has fallen on hard times, and the expense of maintaining the image of wealth results in spending the family's capital.

  • A younger child of an aristocratic family might be given only a very small allowance.

  • Some countries (such as Poland) had such huge aristocratic classes that most of the aristocrats were basically peasants, but with titles.

  • A poor person could be ennobled (for example, for military service), but not given enough land to be wealthy.

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  • I agree that an aristocrat need not be wealthy economically, but one MUST have a wealth (surplus) of talent, education, etc., in order to be an aristocrat. – Seamus Nanatchk Sep 28 '14 at 5:15
  • @user1473511 -- An aristocrat is a member of an aristocracy. Most aristocracies are hereditary. As Thomas Paine pointed out in Common Sense, no personal qualities are guaranteed to be inherited. And especially in overly large aristocracies, many aristocrats do not have any distinguishing features (such as talent or education) other than being a member of the aristocracy. – Jasper Sep 28 '14 at 6:25
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    As the question is posited, "no" is the correct answer as "wealthy" implies strong economic advantage, which is no longer required to rule. It is noteworthy that the word has become so diluted of its original meaning. – Seamus Nanatchk Sep 28 '14 at 7:26

The short answer is Yes.

The Greek term "aristokratia" is 'power' (kratia) to rule by the best (aristos) in society, as distinct from democracy, rule by the general citizenry (demos).

Aristocrats were generally the wealthy land holders or merchants, whose possessions allowed them to provision an army to defend the state and its law from any other power.

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