Friday, March 11, 2022

Etymological and contemporary definitions of "oligarch"

The first of the Oxford English Dictionary's two definitions of "oligarch" reflects the etymology of "oligarchy", meaning "rule of the few": "A person who is part of a small group holding power in a state." The second is less and more specific: "Originally and chiefly in post-communist Russia: a very wealthy business leader with a great deal of political influence." This generalizes the term away from its etymology but specifies the location associated with contemporary usage. "Wealthy business leaders" outside of Russia who have "a great deal of political influence" (or actively engage in politics, like Donald Trump in the United States and Christoph Blocher in Switzerland) are rarely called "oligarchs". (Andrew Shields, #111words, 11 March 2022)

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