coined 1958 by British sociologist Michael Young (1915-2002) and used in title of his book, "The Rise of the Meritocracy"; from merit (n.) + -cracy. Related: Meritocratic.
[Young's book] imagined an elite that got its position not from ancestry, but from test scores and effort. For him, meritocracy was a negative term; his spoof was a warning about the negative consequences of assigning social status based on formal educational qualifications, and showed how excluding from leadership anyone who couldn't jump through the educational hoops would create a new form of discrimination. And that's exactly what has happened. [Lani Guinier, interview, New York Times, Feb. 7, 2015]