If a rule of competence is meritocracy, is there a single word to denote a rule of nepotism, such as nepocracy?

  • 8
    Generally it's simply called monarchy; one of the features of a hereditary monarch is that there are a number of ennobled relatives of the monarch who need jobs, and a monarch who needs trusted subordinates. What is more natural than to put the two together? Nepotism comes from the Greek word for nephew; the question is: Whose nephew? And of course the uncle is more powerful than the nephew, which is why the nephew got the job. Of course, the same is true of aristocracy, but pure aristocracies are very unstable. Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 15:53
  • 1
    @JohnLawler I think there needs to be a distinction between the type of government, which tends to be based on mechanisms and constitutions, and the attributes of the people in power. Any type of government can take on a nepotistic form.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 16:17
  • @JOSH, can you elaborate your comment ? I don't see that he's changed much
    – amphibient
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 16:33
  • @amphibient - ok, no problem.
    – user66974
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 16:34
  • @JohnLawler As an example of what happens to aristocracies, England of the 15th century - the period leading to the Wars of the Roses - is instructive. It is nowadays given the name bastard feudalism by historians. The despotism of the Tudors put it down, but it all started to go wrong again when Elizabeth didn't produce an heir. But by then parliament was on the march.
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 16:43

2 Answers 2


There is the term nepocracy but it appears to be mainly Indian English usage:

    1. Nepotism plus hypocrisy masquerading as Democracy.
    1. Any political system where almost all political leaders tend to be closely linked to other political leaders by blood or marriage.


From: We live not in a Democracy but in a Nepocracy:

  • One of the most defining narratives of present-day India is nepotism. Otherwise a simple term – a polite hark back to help out poor dear nephew(s) – that sounds and feels so innocuous, it is hard to believe how this cancer has metastasized and colonized every cell of Indian society. We see it everywhere in India today, even in places which proclaim to be the high priests of the rule of law, so much so that what we see is not democracy but nepocracy (or nepotcracy, if that’s easy on your tongue!) – the rule by nepotism.


From: Maithripala Sirisena: A Case of ‘Much Ado about Nothing’:

  • The correct term for Sri Lankan brand of 'democracy' is nepocracy (a cross between nepotism and democracy) and nothing else.


  • 2
    Just to correct something in your quotation, the "poor dear nephews" of Popes and cardinals when the word nepotism coined were actually the illegitimate sons of supposedly celibate clergy, adding an extra layer of hypocrisy and dishonesty. Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 17:00
  • 3
    I agree that this word is used only in India. Moreover, it is an incorrect formation: the stem of "nepotism" is "nepot-" not "nepo-". So if you really want to coin a word for "rule by nephews" it should be "nepotocracy".
    – fdb
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 18:13
  • 1
    @fdb People who coin portmanteau's are probably rarely aware of the linguistic derivations of the original word components, and even if they are they probably wouldn't care. The new word is most likely formed in a way that rolls off the tongue well, so long as it still evokes the original stems. Dropping the "t" hardly prevents anyone from recognizing the link with "nepotism".
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 19:15
  • This is an interesting curiosity about a fun political-slang term in InE. Otherwise totally irrelevant.
    – Fattie
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 21:14
  • 2
    @fdb -- personally, I like nepotarchy. Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 22:48

I would use the term oligarchy which means

a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes


Of course, oligarchy is not as opposite to the term meritocracy as anti-meritocratic (political) system. But a small group is usually chosen by the ruler based on nepotism and favoritism rather than on their merits.

Another choice is just using anti-meritocratic system.

Another priority, particularly for Italy, is to overhaul the regulatory framework to uproot a deeply antimeritocratic system that hinders competition by protecting insiders in industry, education, and the services sector.

[International Monetary Fund, Regional Economic Outlook, October 2011]

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.