anarchy

noun
an·​ar·​chy | \ ˈa-nər-kē How to pronounce anarchy (audio) , -ˌnär- How to pronounce anarchy (audio) \

Definition of anarchy

1a : absence of government
b : a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority the city's descent into anarchy
c : a utopian society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government
2a : absence or denial of any authority or established order anarchy prevailed in the war zone
b : absence of order : disorder not manicured plots but a wild anarchy of nature— Israel Shenker

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Synonyms for anarchy

Synonyms

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The Multiple Meanings of Anarchy

Anarchy exemplifies how words may have similar yet distinctive meanings. The earliest recorded use of the word, from the early 16th century, meant simply “absence of government,” albeit with the implication of civil disorder. A similar but ameliorated meaning began to be employed in the 19th century in reference to a Utopian society that had no government. The establishment of these two senses of anarchy did not stop the word from being applied outside the realm of government with the broadened meaning ”a state of confusion or disorder.” The existence of definitions that are in semantic conflict does not imply that one (or more) of them is wrong; it simply shows that multisense words like anarchy mean different things in different contexts. Another example of a sense-shifting word relating to government is aristocracy. When first used in English, this word carried the sole meaning “government by the best individuals.” It may still be used in such a fashion, but more commonly, it is encountered in the extended sense “the aggregate of those believed to be superior.”

Examples of anarchy in a Sentence

Its immigration policies in the last five years have become the envy of those in the West who see in all but the most restrictive laws the specter of terrorism and social anarchy. — Caroline Moorehead, New York Review of Books, 16 Nov. 2006 Fueled by booze and the euphoria of having seen their school win a share of its first … title in 36 years, a mob of Beavers fans hurled itself at the cops, breaching both chains and creating anarchy. — Austin Murphy, Sports Illustrated, 27 Nov. 2000 But by the early 1800s, the mines began to play out, and the colonists challenged the Spanish throne for independence. The Silver Cities survived not only the bloody revolution of 1821 but also the ensuing century of anarchy and bloodshed. — David Baird, Continental, February 1999 The anarchy of the Internet may be daunting for the neophyte, but it differs little from the bibliographical chaos that is the result of five and a half centuries of the printing press. — Fred Lerner, The Story of Libraries, (1945) 1998 Anarchy reigned in the empire's remote provinces. When the teacher was absent, there was anarchy in the classroom.
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Recent Examples on the Web Thomas Gremillion, director of food policy for the Consumer Federation of America, isn’t worked up about the prospect of cherry-pie anarchy. Washington Post, "The Trump administration’s latest deregulation target: Frozen cherry pie," 18 Dec. 2020 The hunt continued in New York City Wednesday for suspects accused of spray-painting an anarchy symbol and anti-police messaging on the façade of the Metropolitan Republican Club on the Upper East Side. Danielle Wallace, Fox News, "Search continues for NYC vandals who targeted Republican club holiday party, put fake body bags on sidewalk," 10 Dec. 2020 The former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s nihilism is the spiritual heir to Abbie Hoffman’s jolly anarchy in the 1960s. New York Times, "Does an Intellectual History of the Trump Era Exist? It Does Now," 6 Oct. 2020 To head off lawlessness and anarchy, the passengers and crew of the ship quickly came together to draft and undersign the Mayflower Compact, which functioned as a governing document for the community. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, "The 1620 Project," 26 Nov. 2020 Others voice fears that a new constitution could send the long-stable country down a path of lawlessness and anarchy. Jorge Poblete, Los Angeles Times, "A year after nationwide protests, Chile goes to the polls on new constitution," 24 Oct. 2020 The truth is, New York right now could use more anarchy, not less. Jason Gay, WSJ, "‘Anarchy’ Is Not a New York City Crisis. It’s a Lifestyle.," 2 Oct. 2020 Such scenes of urban anarchy have become depressingly routine, and Americans are on edge. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Handcuffing the Police," 1 Nov. 2020 Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has warned that the government will not fold its arms and allow the country to descend into anarchy. Sam Olukoya, Star Tribune, "Nigeria's anti-police protesters storm prison, free inmates," 19 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'anarchy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of anarchy

1539, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for anarchy

borrowed from Medieval Latin anarchia, borrowed from Greek anarchía "lack of a leader, lawlessness," from ánarchos "without a head or chief, leaderless" (from an- an- + -archos, derivative of archós "leader, chief") + -ia -y entry 2, -arch entry 1

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Time Traveler for anarchy

Time Traveler

The first known use of anarchy was in 1539

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Statistics for anarchy

Last Updated

12 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Anarchy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anarchy. Accessed 18 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for anarchy

anarchy

noun
How to pronounce anarchy (audio) How to pronounce anarchy (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of anarchy

: a situation of confusion and wild behavior in which the people in a country, group, organization, etc., are not controlled by rules or laws

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