Etymology of Democracy

Democracy is defined as a kind of system of government in which people select leaders through votes, and a democracy attempts to give equal rights for everyone, though in practice this is not what happens (as of 2016).

At least, not perfectly (but then again, is it really fair to expect a human-made system to be absolutely perfect?).

Instead, democratic capitalism often becomes the norm.

The word democracy comes from the Ancient Greek demos (the people) and kratia (rule, strength, power).

Demos + kratia create the Greek word demokratia (democracy, or literally, the rule of the people or the power of the people or the strength of the people).

In Medieval Latin: democratia.

Middle French: démocratie.

Books about Democracy

A small curiosity: people who search for the etymology of democracy often do so because they are attempting to genuinely understand what democracy really is, and where it comes from.

A worthy undertaking if I’ve ever seen one. If you’re such a person, I recommend checking out the following books:

  • Robin Osborne’s Athens and Athenian Democracy
  • Peter John Rhodes’ Athenian Democracy
  • John Thorley’s Athenian Democracy
  • Hamish Aird’s Pericles: The Rise and Fall of Athenian Democracy

Other interesting reads include:

  • Cornel West’s Democracy Matters
  • Kenneth Janda’s The Challenge of Democracy
  • Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America
  • Greg Palast’s The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

Democracy is actually¬†a fairly complex topic and even these few books won’t give you all the available information, but they’re a great start.


Murray, John. An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English. 1921.