From the second edition (1989):
(dɪˈmɒkrəsɪ) Forms: 6–7 democracie, 6–7 (9) -cratie, 7 (9) -craty, 7– -cracy. [a. F. démocratie (siː), (Oresme 14th c.), a. med.L. dēmocratia (in 13th c. L. transl. of Aristotle, attrib. to William of Moerbeke), a. Gr. δηµοκρατία popular government, f. δῆµος the commons, the people + -κρατια in comb. = κράτος rule, sway, authority. The latinized form is frequent in early writers, and democratie, -craty, in 16– 17th c.]
1. Government by the people; that form of government in which the sovereign power resides in the people as a whole, and is exercised either directly by them (as in the small republics of antiquity) or by officers elected by them. In mod. use often more vaguely denoting a social state in which all have equal rights, without hereditary or arbitrary differences of rank or privilege.
[1531 Elyot Gov. i. ii, An other publique weale was amonge the Atheniensis, where equalitie was of astate amonge the people‥This maner of gouernaunce was called in greke Democratia, in latine, Popularis potentia, in englisshe the rule of the comminaltie.] 1576 Fleming Panopl. Epist. 198 Democracie, when the multitude have governement. 1586 T. B. La Primaud. Fr. Acad. 549 Democratie, where free and poore men being the greater number, are lords of the estate. 1628 Wither Brit. Rememb. 267 Were I in Switzerland I would maintaine Democrity. 1664 H. More Myst. Iniq. 514 Presbytery verges nearer toward Populacy or Democracy. 1821 Byron Diary May (Ravenna), What is‥democracy?—an aristocracy of blackguards. 1836 Gen. P. Thompson Exerc. (1842) IV. 191 Democracy means the community's governing through its representatives for its own benefit. 1890 Pall Mall G. 25 Nov. 3/1 ‘Progress of all through all, under the leading of the best and wisest’, was his [Mazzini's] definition of democracy.
b. A state or community in which the government is vested in the people as a whole.
1574 Whitgift Def. Aunsw. iii. Wks. (1851) I. 390 In respect that the people are not secluded, but have their interest in church-matters, it is a democraty, or a popular estate. 1607 Topsell Four-f. Beasts (1658) 97 Democraties do not nourish game and pleasures like unto Monarchies. 1614 Bp. Hall Recoll. Treat. 732 Nothing‥can bee more disorderlie, then the confusion of your Democracie, or popular state. 1671 Milton P.R. iv. 269 Those ancient whose resistless eloquence Wielded at will that fierce democraty. 1794 S. Williams Vermont 342 In the ancient democracies the public business was transacted in the assemblies of the people. 1804 Syd. Smith Mor. Philos. xvi. (1850) 237 In the fierce and eventful democraties of Greece and Rome. 1881 Jowett Thucyd. I. 117 We are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few.
1607 T. Walkington Opt. Glass 82 Tyrannizing as it were over the Democratie of base and vulgar actions. a1652 J. Smith Sel. Disc. ix. xi. (1821) 410 In wicked men there is a democracy of wild lusts and passions. 1885 J. Martineau Types Eth. Th. I. 27 All these εἴδη‥are not left side by side as a democracy of real being.
2. That class of the people which has no hereditary or special rank or privilege; the common people (in reference to their political power).
1827 Hallam Const. Hist. (1876) II. xii. 453 The power of the democracy in that age resided chiefly in the corporations. 1841 Gen. P. Thompson Exerc. (1842) VI. 151 The portion of the people whose injury is the most manifest, have got or taken the title of the ‘democracy’. For nobody that has taken care of himself, is ever, in these days, of the democracy‥The political life of the English democracy, may be said to date from the 21st of January 1841. 1868 Mill in Eng. & Ireland Feb., When the democracy of one country will join hands with the democracy of another.
3. Democratism. rare.
1856 Miss Mulock J. Halifax 244 It seems that democracy is rife in your neighbourhood.
4. U.S. politics. a. The principles of the Democratic party; b. The members of the Democratic party collectively.
1825 H. Clay Priv. Corr. 112, I am [alleged to be] a deserter from democracy. 1848 N.Y. Herald 13 June (Bartlett), The election of 1840‥was carried by‥false charges against the American democracy. 1868 in G. Rose Gt. Country 354 That resolution adopted by the Maine Democracy in State Convention at Augusta. 1891 Lowell's Poems, Biglow P., Note 301 One of the leaders of the Northern Democracy during the war, and the presidential nominee against Lincoln in 1864.