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 ghetto
b : absence of order : disorder not manicured plots but a wild anarchy of nature— Israel Shenker
3 : anarchism

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Synonyms for anarchy

Synonyms

lawlessness, misrule

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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

The past year has been grim for emerging markets, with currency collapses, IMF rescues and Venezuela’s descent toward anarchy. James Mackintosh, WSJ, "Defaults Hurt, But Emerging Debt Still Wins in the Long Run," 26 Feb. 2019 After all, humanity lived for millenniums in something resembling low-grade anarchy. Max Fisher, New York Times, "In Afghanistan’s Unwinnable War, What’s the Best Loss to Hope For?," 1 Feb. 2018 The collapse of the regime in November of that year led to a brief dream of real anarchy, an Indian summer of squatting and life by committee. Dominic Green, WSJ, "‘Burning Down the Haus’ Review: East German Punks," 20 Sep. 2018 The demonstrators’ accusations echo those during Afghanistan’s civil war in the early 1990s, a battle of spoils among warlords, thugs and mujahedeen fighters that reduced parts of the country to anarchy. Ehsanullah Amiri, WSJ, "Suicide Bomber Kills Dozens of Afghans Protesting Local Official," 12 Sep. 2018 Members from the conservative- and libertarian-leaning Freedom Caucus insist on ideological purity, bordering on anarchy, in keeping with the fading Tea Party movement needle him. Time, "Paul Ryan Has the Toughest Job in Washington: Avoiding a Government Shutdown," 17 Jan. 2018 As with most open-source projects, the decisions regarding what gets added and changed are made through a mix of despotism and anarchy. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "If You Can't Beat It, Code It," 17 Dec. 2018 Anyone who refuses to recognize that Donald Trump has raised the hate meter in this country to DEFCON 1 (our nation’s highest threat alert) is choosing politics over patriotism, despotism over common sense, anarchy over democracy. Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press, "Rochelle Riley: Threats to journalists are threats to America," 8 July 2018 But even that conceals the true madness of the pricing scheme, the genuine anarchy at the heart of this bewildering chart. Russell Brandom, The Verge, "The true madness of a viral wing pricing scheme," 28 Oct. 2018

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

Medieval Latin anarchia, from Greek, from anarchos having no ruler, from an- + archos ruler — more at arch-

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More Definitions for anarchy

anarchy

noun

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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More from Merriam-Webster on anarchy

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with anarchy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for anarchy

Spanish Central: Translation of anarchy

Nglish: Translation of anarchy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of anarchy for Arabic Speakers

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