Rule or government by many people.
In later use often associated with proponents of a pluralist political philosophy (especially R. A. Dahl and his supporters), and frequently referring to the theory that society is controlled by a set of competing interest groups rather than by a single governing power.
Early 17th century; earliest use found in Richard Knolles (d. 1610), historian and translator. From French poliarchie and its etymon post-classical Latin polyarchia from ancient Greek πολυαρχία rule or government by many from πολυ- + -αρχία (in μοναρχία). Compare Spanish poliarquía, Italian poliarchia.