A dynasty (UK: i/, US: i/) is a sequence of rulers from the same family, usually in the context of a feudal or monarchical system, but sometimes also appearing in electiverepublics. The dynastic family or lineage may be known as a "noble house", which may be styled as "royal", "princely", "ducal", "comital", etc., depending upon the chief or present title borne by its members. Historiansperiodize the histories of many sovereign states, such as Ancient Egypt, the Carolingian Empire and Imperial China, using a framework of successive dynasties. As such, the term "dynasty" may be used to delimit the era during which the family reigned and to describe events, trends, and artifacts of that period ("a Ming-dynasty vase"). The word "dynasty" itself is often dropped from such adjectival references ("a Ming vase").
Until the 19th century, it was taken for granted that a legitimate function of a monarch was to aggrandize his dynasty: that is, to increase the territory, wealth, and power of his family members. The longest-surviving dynasty in the world is the Imperial House of Japan, otherwise known as the Yamato dynasty, whose reign is traditionally dated to 660 BC.
In Limpopo Province of South Africa, Balobedu determined descent matrilineally, while rulers have at other times adopted the name of their mother's dynasty when coming into her inheritance. Less frequently, a monarchy has alternated or been rotated, in a multidynastic (or polydynastic) system – that is, the most senior living members of parallel dynasties, at any point in time, constitute the line of succession.
The word "dynasty" is sometimes used informally for people who are not rulers but are, for example, members of a family with influence and power in other areas, such as a series of successive owners of a major company. It is also extended to unrelated people, such as major poets of the same school or various rosters of a single sports team.
The word "dynasty" derives from Latin dynastia, which comes from Greekdynastéia (δυναστεία), where it referred to "power", "dominion", and "rule" itself. It was the abstract noun of dynástēs (δυνάστης), the agent noun of dynamis (δύναμις), "power" or "ability", from dýnamai (δύναμαι), "to be able".