AskDefine | Define autocrat

Dictionary Definition

autocrat n : a cruel and oppressive dictator [syn: tyrant, despot]

User Contributed Dictionary



From autocrate, itself from αυτωκρατησ (autokrates) "ruling by oneself," from auto- "self" (combinatory form of autos) + kratia "rule" (from kratos "strength, power")


  1. An absolute ruler with infinite power
  2. A title born by some such such Monarchs, as in Byzantium and tsarist Russia


ruler with absolute power



Extensive Definition

An autocracy is a form of government in which the political power is held by a single self-appointed ruler. The term autocrat is derived from the Greek word autocratic (lit. "self-ruler", or to: "rule by one's self"). Compare with oligarchy (literally means rule by the few) and democracy (rule by the majority).
Today it is usually seen as synonymous with despot, tyrant and/or dictator, though each of these terms originally had a separate and distinct meaning (see their respective articles).
Autocracy is not synonymous with totalitarianism, as this concept was precisely forged to distinguish modern regimes that appeared in the 1920s from traditional dictatorships. It also isn't synonymous with military dictatorship, as these often take the form of "collective presidencies" (see the South-American juntas). However, an autocracy may be totalitarian or be a military dictatorship.
The term monarchy also differs in that it emphasizes the hereditary characteristic, though some Slavic monarchs, specifically Russian Emperors traditionally included the title "autocrat" as part of their official styles. The actual power of the monarch may be limited. Historically, many monarchs ruled autocratically (see absolute monarchy) but eventually their power was diminished and dissolved with the introduction of constitutions giving the people the power to make decisions for themselves through elected bodies of government.
The autocrat needs some kind of power structure to rule. Very few rulers were in the position to rule with only their personal charisma and skills however great they may be without the help of others. Most historical autocrats depended on their nobles, the military, the priesthood or others, who could turn against the ruler and depose or murder him (or her). The true nature of a historical autocracy and the difference between an autocracy and an oligarchy can be difficult to judge.
autocrat in Asturian: Autocracia
autocrat in Bosnian: Autokratija
autocrat in Catalan: Autocràcia
autocrat in Czech: Autokracie
autocrat in German: Autokratie
autocrat in Spanish: Autocracia
autocrat in Persian: حکومت استبدادی
autocrat in French: Autocratie
autocrat in Galician: Autocracia
autocrat in Hungarian: Autokrácia
autocrat in Indonesian: Otokrasi
autocrat in Italian: Autocrazia
autocrat in Macedonian: Автократија
autocrat in Japanese: 専制政治
autocrat in Lithuanian: Autokratija
autocrat in Dutch: Autocratie
autocrat in Polish: Autokracja
autocrat in Portuguese: Autocracia
autocrat in Russian: Автократия
autocrat in Serbo-Croatian: Autokracija
autocrat in Simple English: Autocracy
autocrat in Slovenian: Avtokracija
autocrat in Serbian: Аутократија
autocrat in Swedish: Autokrati
autocrat in Ukrainian: Автократія
autocrat in Chinese: 独裁

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Simon Legree, absolute monarch, absolute ruler, all-powerful ruler, arrogator, autarch, caesar, commissar, czar, despot, dictator, disciplinarian, driver, duce, hard master, martinet, oligarch, oppressor, pharaoh, slave driver, stickler, tyrant, usurper, warlord
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