Throughout history there have been a few instances where a smaller group of people were able to oppress a larger group of people through fear, enslavement, etc. In most cases if the larger, oppressed group unified they would be able to revolt and free themselves. Is there a word specific to these scenarios?

I am not looking for a word that describes a form of governance.


  • Slavery in the United States (Plantations often had hundreds of slaves but few people managing them)
  • Nazis in Germany (Only 11% of the population of most work camps consisted of guards)
  • Ancient Egyptians (Were rumored to have thousands of Hebrew slaves)
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    You can call it racial/ethnic/political/religious segregation/persecution/oppression by *insert_name_of_minority" minority. I don't believe there is a specific word for a smaller group segregating a larger group, other than describing it as such. – MorganFR Feb 14 '17 at 14:30
  • I thought as much. Mass-oppression was the closest thing I could think of. I was just wondering if there was a more scientific word for those particular instances. Not to be confused with genocide. – Raptor Feb 14 '17 at 14:47
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    A few instances? You're talking about all of history, at least since the beginning of civilization (production of a surplus, classes, state power). – Drew Feb 14 '17 at 14:57
  • @Drew very true. Only a few instances on such a large scale though in modern history. – Raptor Feb 14 '17 at 16:34
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    @Raptor - There's more than "a few" in Africa alone. – Hot Licks Feb 14 '17 at 20:47

It seems to me that you seek a word with three elements, and it’s hard to find a single word with all three. (1) Government by a group is known as oligarchy; Merriam-Webster comments that the word “often has the additional connotation of corruption.” But the examples the you mention (slavery in the antebellum United States, persecution in Nazi Germany, slavery in ancient Egypt) share the added elements of (2) ethnic division and (3) persecution. Some sources (e.g. The Free Dictionary, Your Dictionary and Wikipedia) list the word ethnocracy. All of these sources take the word to refer to ethnic division, and sometimes they also refer to persecution; but they don't refer to rule by a minority. I notice (in my little survey of the web) that ethnocracy almost always appears in the context of politically loaded condemnation of one society or another rather than dispassionate and serious thought; and it is absent from major reference works and marked as a misspelling by the software I'm currently using to write these words. Still, there does seem to be some warrant to describe your examples as ethnocracies or perhaps "ethnocratic oligarchies."



Intimidation may be the only word that can describe how a smaller group can control at larger group, without the consent of the smaller group. Intimidate:frighten or overawe (someone), especially in order to make them do what one wants (OED)

Almost any word or term used to identify how a larger group controls a smaller group will need intimidation as part of its definition.
Intimidation is the essential part of "control by force", "coercion", "cow" etc.

The Gauls, intimidated by Rome's power, submitted.

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