Definition of anarchy
- the city's descent into anarchy
- anarchy prevailed in the ghetto
- not manicured plots but a wild anarchy of nature
- —Israel Shenker
Anarchy reigned in the empire's remote provinces.
When the teacher was absent, there was anarchy in the classroom.
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.
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.”
: a situation of confusion and wild behavior in which the people in a country, group, organization, etc., are not controlled by rules or laws
What made you want to look up anarchy? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
Confusing Words—A Quiz