The act of giving a job or other preference to a relative because of the relationship and not because of competence. For example, President Kennedy was accused of nepotism when he appointed his brother Robert to the post of Attorney General. The word comes from the Latin word for nephew. In the Middle Ages, when the Pope had a son and wanted to give him some kind of office in the Church, he would introduce the young man as his nephew. Of course, he couldn't admit that the young man was actually his son, but everyone knew that he really was. So the Pope's "nephew" would get a nice job, thanks to nepotism. A related abuse is cronyism, where people give preference to their friends. That word probably comes from the 18th Century English criminal underworld, where partners in crime were referred to as a man's cronies.
(Will be published in the September 2009 issue of Denver's Community News.)
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