Part of speech: noun
Origin: British English, 1958
A government system in which power and advancement is based upon talent and performance, rather than birthright or wealth
Any organizational structure in which people are judged based on achievement
Examples of Meritocracy in a sentence
"Democratic elections promote a meritocracy, instead of a monarchy, where power is passed down through the family."
"The company has become more of a meritocracy, with regular performance reviews determining promotions and raises."
Popularity Over Time
There are many forms of government that are different from a meritocracy — aristocracy (hereditary power), theocracy (government ruled by religious figures), plutocracy (power given to the wealthy) — but they’re not exactly opposites. The best antonym for "meritocracy" would be nepotism, where those in power grant favor to their relatives. In a meritocracy you’d never get a job just because your father is the president of the company.
Did you Know?
The term "meritocracy" was coined in a 1958 satirical essay by British politician Michael Dunlop Young. While the word is relatively new, the philosophy that intelligence and achievement are to be valued above all else is not a new concept. The earliest example can be traced back to 6th-century China when Confucius supported the idea that the government should be chosen based on merit, rather than inherited status.