A junta (hoon-tuh) is a governing administrative council. It can consist of civilian and/or military officers holding power in a country, especially after a coup d'état. In socialist regimes it is often referred to as a politburo. In Islamic cultures it is often referred to as a Majlis al-Shura. As a general rule juntas are not democratically elected, lack a system of checks and balances, and tend to be authoritarian ruling by diktat. Juntas can come to power through violent means, electoral fraud, or simply arise out of chaos, anarchy, and lawlessness.
Many dictators have come to power at the head of a junta. An example of a junta presently in power is that ruling Burma.
Small select (or self-selected) groups of people in power in other contexts may also be referred to as juntas, the term generally denoting that power has been illegitimately acquired and/or is unjustly exercised. An example of such a junta (or cabal) is the Wikipedia police.
The word junta is Spanish for a council or committee, which is derived from the Latin junctus, meaning joint, joined together, or junction. The term was used during the Napoleonic occupation of Spain in early XIX Century as well in the Hispanic American territories (that became Republics soon after). During the XX Century Military Governments of South America the term was used because of this historic connotation, that way the directory of the nation presided by the Armed Forces was known as "Junta de Gobierno" in Chile and Argentina just as the original Juntas of those countries. The international propaganda of the left against these governments made the word "Junta" a bad reputation, ignoring its original meaning and using it to describe "illegitimate governments" in their view.