Aristocracy (class)
The aristocracy are people considered to be in the highest social class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

 in a society which has or once had a political system of Aristocracy
Aristocracy , is a form of government in which a few elite citizens rule. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning "rule of the best". In origin in Ancient Greece, it was conceived of as rule by the best qualified citizens, and contrasted with monarchy...

. Aristocrats possess hereditary titles granted by a monarch, which once granted them feudal or legal privileges, or deriving, as in Ancient Greece and India, from membership of a military caste. They are usually below only the monarch of a country
A country is a region legally identified as a distinct entity in political geography. A country may be an independent sovereign state or one that is occupied by another state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, or a geographic region associated with a previously...

 or nation
A nation may refer to a community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, and/or history. In this definition, a nation has no physical borders. However, it can also refer to people who share a common territory and government irrespective of their ethnic make-up...

 in its social hierarchy
A hierarchy is an arrangement of items in which the items are represented as being "above," "below," or "at the same level as" one another...

The term "aristocracy" is derived from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

Aristocracy , is a form of government in which a few elite citizens rule. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning "rule of the best". In origin in Ancient Greece, it was conceived of as rule by the best qualified citizens, and contrasted with monarchy...

, meaning 'first'. In most cases titles of aristocracy were and are hereditary, passing on death of an aristocrat to another family member, typically the eldest son or eldest child.

Origins of the notion

The term "aristocracy" (ἀριστοκρατία) was first given in Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 to young citizens (the men of the ruling class) who led armies from the front line. Because military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 bravery was highly regarded as a virtue
Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being....

 in ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

, it was assumed that the armies were being led by "the best". From the ancient Greeks, the term passed on to the European Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 for a similar hereditary class of military leaders often referred to as the "nobility". As in Greece, this was a class of privileged men and women whose familial connections to the regional armies allowed them to present themselves as the most "noble" or "best."


Historically the status and privileges of the aristocracy in Europe were below royalty
Royalty may refer to:* Royal family , or one or more of its members* Royalties, the payment made for a concession of commercial value Royalty may refer to:* Royal family (by extension the ruling house of any monarchy, regardless of the title), or one or more of its members* Royalties, the payment...

 and above all non-aristocrats.

The French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 attacked aristocrats as people who had achieved their status by birth rather than by merit
The term merit constitutes a desirable trait or ability belonging to a person or an object.It may refer to:* Merit * Merit * Meritocracymerit may also mean:...

, and this was considered unjust. In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and other European countries, such as Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

, in which hereditary titles are still recognised, "aristocrat" still refers to the descendant of one of approximately 7,000 families with hereditary titles, many still in possession of considerable wealth.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom hereditary aristocrats were until 1999
House of Lords Act 1999
The House of Lords Act 1999 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that was given Royal Assent on 11 November 1999. The Act reformed the House of Lords, one of the chambers of Parliament. For centuries, the House of Lords had included several hundred members who inherited their seats;...

 members of the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

, the upper house
Upper house
An upper house, often called a senate, is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house; a legislature composed of only one house is described as unicameral.- Possible specific characteristics :...

 of the legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

, the Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

; in 1999 most ceased to be members, 92 retaining membership on an interim basis. Since 1958 non-hereditary "life peers" have been created
Life Peerages Act 1958
The Life Peerages Act 1958 established the modern standards for the creation of life peers by the monarch of the United Kingdom. Life peers are barons and are members of the House of Lords for life, but their titles and membership in the Lords are not inherited by their children. Judicial life...

, automatically members of the House of Lords for life, and with the right to be known by their title; e.g., John Gummer
John Gummer
John Selwyn Gummer, Baron Deben, PC is a British Conservative Party politician, formerly Member of Parliament for Suffolk Coastal, now a member of the House of Lords. He is Chairman of the environmental consultancy company Sancroft International and Chairman of Veolia Water...

 became (The Rt Hon.) Lord Deben.


The United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 explicitly states "No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State." This absolutely rules out any formal, recognised aristocracy. When the USA became independent of Britain, the British aristocracy was powerful and much resented; the new nation wanted to do away with aristocracy.

However, in some nations without a formal aristocracy, including the USA, the term is sometimes used informally for families which have been rich and powerful for several generations, though without formal titles or rights.


In ancient India, starting in the Vedic period
Vedic period
The Vedic period was a period in history during which the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, were composed. The time span of the period is uncertain. Philological and linguistic evidence indicates that the Rigveda, the oldest of the Vedas, was composed roughly between 1700–1100 BCE, also...

, the Kshatriya
*For the Bollywood film of the same name see Kshatriya Kshatriya or Kashtriya, meaning warrior, is one of the four varnas in Hinduism...

s formed the military aristocracy. Although the Brahmin
Brahmin Brahman, Brahma and Brahmin.Brahman, Brahmin and Brahma have different meanings. Brahman refers to the Supreme Self...

s – priests and interpreters of religious texts – were theoretically the highest caste, the power and prestige rested with the ruling Kshatriya caste. However, after the invasion of the Gurjara Pratiharas; jats, ahirs
Ahir is an Indian caste. The term can be used synonymously with Yadav, as the latter term refers to Ahirs who have identified as Yadavs. The major divisions of Ahirs are: Yaduvanshi, Nandvanshi, and Gwalvanshi.-Etymology:...

 and gujars became rajputs (by the influence of hinduism, via the brahman
In Hinduism, Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being...

 or in many areas chaudhary
Choudhury is a term in Indo-Aryan languages, literally meaning "holder of four". Traditionally, the term is used as a title indicating the ownership of ancestral land, but in contemporary usage it is often taken as a surname or title....


Indian allochtonous titles

Under the rule of the Mughal Empire
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

, the titles for those under a king were borrowed from Persia. Most Indian princely families and a large part of the subcontinent's jagirdars, thikanadars and talukdars were from the mughal
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

, pathan
Pathan may refer to a member of the:*Pashtun people; an ethnic group native to Pakistan and Afghanistan*Pathans of Punjab*Pathans of Rajasthan*Pathans of Uttar Pradesh*Pathans of Bihar*Pathans of Gujarat*Rohilla...

, ahir, jat or (more commonly in the east, and south of India) of the kshatriya
*For the Bollywood film of the same name see Kshatriya Kshatriya or Kashtriya, meaning warrior, is one of the four varnas in Hinduism...

A Rajput is a member of one of the patrilineal clans of western, central, northern India and in some parts of Pakistan. Rajputs are descendants of one of the major ruling warrior classes in the Indian subcontinent, particularly North India...

 caste, but often they were not, as was the case for the rulers of the Deccan. These were often thought of as the Nobility of the Sword.

A Zamindar or zemindar , was an aristocrat, typically hereditary, who held enormous tracts of land and ruled over and taxed the bhikaaris who lived on batavaslam. Over time, they took princely and royal titles such as Maharaja , Raja , Nawab , and Mirza , Chowdhury , among others...

Many landholding families either held legal or administrative offices, and were sometimes considered to be the Indian version of the Nobility of the Robe. The princes appointed officers, such as dewan and other state level ministers, to run their administrations, who were considered to be members of the regional nobility. Most of these officers were either relatives of the princes who appointed them, or were themselves substantial landlords under the sovereignty of the Princely States, and most held hereditary titles. Sometimes, educated men belonging to the British Imperial Services were also appointed to the high offices of the Princely States, but their positions were not hereditary and they were seen as career bureaucrats rather than noblemen by their employer's.

Nowadays, aristocratic titles like Chaudhary
Choudhury is a term in Indo-Aryan languages, literally meaning "holder of four". Traditionally, the term is used as a title indicating the ownership of ancestral land, but in contemporary usage it is often taken as a surname or title....

, Sardar
Sardar is a title of Indo-Aryan origin that was originally used to denote feudal princes, noblemen, and other aristocrats. It was later applied to indicate a Head of State, a Commander-in-chief, and an Army military rank...

, Zaildar
Zaildar was a native officer in charge of a Zail in the colonial rural administration of Punjab in British India. Each Zail was an administrative unit, extending between 2 to 40 villages....

, Jagirdar, Singh
Also see SinhaSingh is a common title, middle name, or surname in Northern India and South India used by sikhs warriors and kings. eg. Man Singh I, Maharana Pratap Singh. It is derived from the Sanskrit word Siṃha meaning "lion and used by Ahir kings of Nepal". It is also used in Sri Lanka by...

, Rajput
A Rajput is a member of one of the patrilineal clans of western, central, northern India and in some parts of Pakistan. Rajputs are descendants of one of the major ruling warrior classes in the Indian subcontinent, particularly North India...

, Thakur
The Thakore are Hindu caste found in the state of Gujarat in India. They also known as Patanwadia, Dharedas or Baria.-History and origin:The Thakore of Gujarat claim to have originated in Maharashtra in the distant past. They are found in the districts of Mehsana, Ahmedabad, Banaskantha,...

, Nair
Nair , also known as Nayar , refers to "not a unitary group but a named category of castes", which historically embody several castes and many subdivisions, not all of whom bore the Nair title. These people historically live in the present-day Indian state of Kerala...

, Iyer
Iyer is the title given to the caste of Hindu Brahmin communities of Tamil origin. Most Iyers are followers of the Advaita philosophy propounded by Adi Shankara...

, Madampi
Madampi (Nair title)
Madampi is an aristocratic title given to the uppermost subdivisions of Nairs in Kerala, by the Maharajahs of Travancore and Cochin. Usually, it was given in addition to the Pillai title. Madampis served as Jenmis or landlords during the pre-independence era...

, Ali
' |Ramaḍān]], 40 AH; approximately October 23, 598 or 600 or March 17, 599 – January 27, 661).His father's name was Abu Talib. Ali was also the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and ruled over the Islamic Caliphate from 656 to 661, and was the first male convert to Islam...

, Varma
Varmā , Varman or Burman or Barman is an honorific title that was originally used by the Kshatriyas in India and South East Asia...

 and Verma
Verma is a common surname for people found in Northern parts of India, especially among members of Kayastha, Kshatriyas, Rajputs, Jats and Mair kshatriyas caste of Hindus. Verma , meaning “shield” is a word of central Asian origin and was originally surname for warriors...

 are still used in India.


Main article: Nigerian traditional rulers
Nigerian traditional rulers
Nigerian traditional rulers often derive their titles from the rulers of independent states or communities that existed before the formation of modern Nigeria...

Deriving for the most part from the pre-colonial states that existed in the region that would become known as Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

, the legally-recognised titles of the Nigerian nobility range from king
- Centers of population :* King, Ontario, CanadaIn USA:* King, Indiana* King, North Carolina* King, Lincoln County, Wisconsin* King, Waupaca County, Wisconsin* King County, Washington- Moving-image works :Television:...

to the eponymous chief
Tribal chief
A tribal chief is the leader of a tribal society or chiefdom. Tribal societies with social stratification under a single leader emerged in the Neolithic period out of earlier tribal structures with little stratification, and they remained prevalent throughout the Iron Age.In the case of ...

. They give their bearers no political authority in theory, but in practice allow them to serve as immensely powerful patrons of the country's political leaders due to their control of popular opinion within its various tribe
A tribe, viewed historically or developmentally, consists of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states.Many anthropologists use the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups .Some theorists...

s. Along with those of their titled relatives and courtiers, they also ensure that they serve as the guiding forces behind the varied cultural and religious ceremonies that take place in the country throughout the calendar year.

Titles such as Oba
Oba (ruler)
Oba is a West African synonym for monarch, one that is usually applied to the Yoruba and Edo rulers of the region. It is also often used by their traditional subjects to refer to other kings and queens, such as Elizabeth I of England, in their native languages.-Edo account of the word's origin:The...

, Amanyanaboh, Mai
-Given name:*Mai , an Arabic female name*Mai or Maj, a Swedish female name *Mai, a female Vietnamese name*Mai, the title of Sayfawa dynasty kings of Chad...

, Obong, Sarki, Attah and Obi
Obi (ruler)
Obi is the word used to describe the central building in an Igbo homestead, one used most commonly as a place for the reception of guests. As such, it can also be looked at symbolically as a metaphor for the most important part, or heart, of any given place...

 are used by the dynastic heads, while prince
Prince is a general term for a ruler, monarch or member of a monarch's or former monarch's family, and is a hereditary title in the nobility of some European states. The feminine equivalent is a princess...

and princess
Princess is the feminine form of prince . Most often, the term has been used for the consort of a prince, or his daughters....

are either used in their English forms or in their native ones by the cadets of their houses. Their ministers, meanwhile, tend to be called either chiefs
Chieftain may refer to:The leader or head of a group:* a tribal chief or a village head.* a member of the 'House of chiefs'.* a captain, to which 'chieftain' is etymologically related.* Clan chief, the head of a Scottish clan....

or elders
Elder (administrative title)
The term Elder is used in several different countries and organizations to indicate a position of authority...

depending on what their monarchs are themselves called, with chiefs serving under a ruler who is called a king and elders serving under one called a chief.

See also

  • Gentry
    Gentry denotes "well-born and well-bred people" of high social class, especially in the past....

  • Honorifics
  • Monarchy
    A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

  • Nobility
    Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

  • Old Money
    Old Money
    Old money is "the inherited wealth of established upper-class families " or "a person, family, or lineage possessing inherited wealth." The term typically describes a class of the super-rich, who have been able to maintain their wealth across multiple generations.- United States :American locations...

  • Peerage
    The Peerage is a legal system of largely hereditary titles in the United Kingdom, which constitute the ranks of British nobility and is part of the British honours system...

     (United Kingdom)
  • Royal and noble ranks
    Royal and noble ranks
    Traditional rank amongst European royalty, peers, and nobility is rooted in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Although they vary over time and between geographic regions , the following is a reasonably comprehensive list that provides information on both general ranks and specific differences.-...

  • Styles
    Style (manner of address)
    A style of office, or honorific, is a legal, official, or recognized title. A style, by tradition or law, precedes a reference to a person who holds a post or political office, and is sometimes used to refer to the office itself. An honorific can also be awarded to an individual in a personal...

     (manner of address)
  • Styles
    Royal and noble styles
    Styles represent the fashion by which monarchs and noblemen are properly addressed. Throughout history, many different styles were used, with little standardization...

     (royal and noble)
  • Styles
    Forms of Address in the United Kingdom
    Forms of address used in the United Kingdom are given below.Several terms have been abbreviated in the table below. The forms used in the table are given first, followed by alternative acceptable abbreviations in parentheses.-Abbreviations:*His/Her Majesty: HM...

     (United Kingdom)
  • Title
    A title is a prefix or suffix added to someone's name to signify either veneration, an official position or a professional or academic qualification. In some languages, titles may even be inserted between a first and last name...

  • Titles
    False titles of nobility
    False titles of nobility are supposed titles of nobility that have been fabricated and are not recognised by any government and were not so recognised in the past, even in countries in which titles of nobility once existed or still exist. They have received an increasing amount of press attention,...

  • Titles
    Hereditary Title
    Hereditary titles, in a general sense, are titles, positions or styles that are hereditary and thus tend or are bound to remain in particular families....

  • Titles
    Title of honor
    An honorary title or title of honor is a title bestowed upon individuals or organizations as an award in recognition of their merits.Sometimes the title bears the same or nearly the same name as a title of authority, but the person bestowed does not have to carry any duties, possibly except for...

  • Social capital
    Social capital
    Social capital is a sociological concept, which refers to connections within and between social networks. The concept of social capital highlights the value of social relations and the role of cooperation and confidence to get collective or economic results. The term social capital is frequently...

  • Social environment
    Social environment
    The social environment of an individual, also called social context or milieu, is the culture that s/he was educated or lives in, and the people and institutions with whom the person interacts....

  • Symbolic capital
    Symbolic capital
    In sociology and anthropology, symbolic capital can be referred to as the resources available to an individual on the basis of honor, prestige or recognition, and functions as an authoritative embodiment of cultural value...

  • Honour
    Honour or honor is an abstract concept entailing a perceived quality of worthiness and respectability that affects both the social standing and the self-evaluation of an individual or corporate body such as a family, school, regiment or nation...

  • Moral responsibility
    Moral responsibility
    Moral responsibility usually refers to the idea that a person has moral obligations in certain situations. Disobeying moral obligations, then, becomes grounds for justified punishment. Deciding what justifies punishment, if anything, is a principle concern of ethics.People who have moral...

External links

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