Pub. date: 2011 | Online Pub. Date: October 04, 2011 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412994163 | Print ISBN: 9781412959636 | Online ISBN: 9781412994163| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines monarchy as a “state under monarchical government” where a monarch is a “sovereign with title of king, queen, emperor, empress or equivalent.” Although this definition has the merit of describing popular usage in the English language, it is readily apparent that it is indeterminate. It amounts to saying that monarchy is what monarchs do, and it leaves open what other titles might be equivalent (in the masculine forms) to king or emperor. Etymology—and the classical Greek origin of the word—offers an approach that initially seems more determinate: Monarchy is the rule of a single person. This can be contrasted with aristocracy—the rule of the “best” or the “elite”—and democracy—variously the rule of all the people or the “ordinary” people. However, common usage in English and several other languages has come to invest the idea of monarchy with at least the additional criterion of hereditary ...