Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely


What does Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely mean?

Absolute power corrupts absolutely is an idiomatic phrase, referring to the fact that the more might someone amasses, the more morally decrepit they become.

It addresses the fact that people in positions of power become overly vain and prideful, clouding their judgement.


What's the origin of Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely?

The quote is widely attributed to Lord Acton who wrote it in his letter to Bishop Mandell in 1887, as “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

Despite the widespread notion that the idiom comes from Lord Acton, the idea has already been expressed a century earlier, in the late 1700’s by William Pitt the Elder.

Spread & Usage

How did Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely spread?

Over the years, “absolute power corrupts absolutely” grew to be a widely accepted idea, with the sentence achieving an idiomatic position in English.

Since 1887, it has appeared in a variety of literary sources, books, letters, speeches as well as song lyrics.

External resources

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