From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Elite (also spelled Élite) is taken from the Latin, eligere, "to elect". In sociology as in general usage, the élite (the "elect," from French) is a relatively small dominant group within a larger society, which enjoys a privileged status which is upheld by individuals of lower social status within the structure of a group. When applied to an individual, as in the phrase "many elites come to this restaurant," the usage quite economically both refers to an individual within that class and establishes the speaker as non-elite.
An elite is the result of economic and political forces within a social structure. Upon formation, societies have always had the tendency to stratify due to a combination of politics and ability. The position of an elite at the top of the social strata almost invariably puts it in a position of leadership and often subjects the holders of elite status to pressure to maintain their position as part of the elite. However, in spite of the pressures borne by its members, the existence of the elite as a social stratum is usually unchanged.