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Definition of Nepotism

(noun) Favoritism toward relatives or personal friends by those in power, who because of their relationship rather than their abilities, receive special treatment (e.g., jobs, discounts).

Examples of Nepotism

  • Legacy admissions (also called legacy preference) is when preferential treatment is given to family members related to alumni of a particular institution or organization, but typically used to describe university admissions. Students admitted as part of this process are referred to as legacies or legacy students.
  • Ulysses S. Grant (1869–1877), the 18th President of United States (1869–1877), is often cited as an example of nepotism in politics. Grant’s father and brothers, along with his father-in-law and brothers-in-law, all profited from his presidency.

Etymology of Nepotism

  • Term comes from the Italian word neptismo, and from the Latin word nepōs (“nephew”) and relates to the practice of popes appointing relatives, particular nephews to positions as cardinals during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Nepotism Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: nep·o·tism

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /nEp-uh-tiz-uhm/
  • British English – /nE-puh-ti-zuhm/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈnɛpəˌtɪz(ə)m/
  • British English – /ˈnɛpətɪz(ə)m/

Usage Notes

  • Amicism refers specifically to giving preference to one’s friends.
  • Nepotism limits mobility though endogamy, can be an example of social capital, and is typically viewed as an act of corruption.
  • Nepotism is contrasted to meritocracy.
  • Nepotism is similar to cronyism.
  • Also called:
    • clannishness
    • kin selection
  • A individual getting a job through nepotism is a (noun) nepotist who (adverb) nepotistically had a (adjective) nepotistic or (adjective) nepotical or (adjective) nepotistical advantage.

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Goldscheider, Frances, and Berna Torr. 2007. “Leaving Home in the Transition to Adulthood.” Pp. 2571 in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, edited by G. Ritzer. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Cite the Definition of Nepotism

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “nepotism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved May 23, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/nepotism/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

nepotism. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/nepotism/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “nepotism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed May 23, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/nepotism/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“nepotism.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 23 May. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/nepotism/>.