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

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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 In 2011, before the Occupy Wall Street protests exploded, activists painted parts of the bull with the symbol representing anarchy. Rebecca Tan, Washington Post, "Wall Street’s ‘Charging Bull’ has been defaced again — this time by a metal banjo," 9 Sep. 2019 In 2011, before the Occupy Wall Street protests exploded, activists painted parts of the bull with the symbol representing anarchy. oregonlive, "Banjo-wielding Texas man accused of damaging Wall Street’s ‘Charging Bull’," 10 Sep. 2019 For impressionable young troublemakers, the film must have seemed like a how-to manual for perpetrating anarchy: both The Narrator and Durden speak directly to the camera at times, explaining their techniques and motivations. N.e.g., The Economist, "“Fight Club” presaged the darker corners of the internet," 10 Sep. 2019 His work references children in rural parts in Africa and celebrating the allurement in anarchy. Nandi Howard, Essence, "Carmelo Anthony Presents Melo Made Collection 2," 7 Sep. 2019 The collapse of Qaddafi’s regime loosed a wave of anarchy. Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker, "The Moral Logic of Humanitarian Intervention," 9 Sep. 2019 The Roman Empire that Constantine was born into was one of chaos and anarchy. Kristin Baird Rattini, National Geographic, "Who was Constantine?," 25 Feb. 2019 Isn’t picking and choosing to obey or disobey laws anarchy? Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: Spotlight on the Will-power of Michael Bennet (7/21/19)," 21 July 2019 Did Cain really launch his Fat Tuesday parade out of the blue in 1866 as an act of pure anarchy? al, "Mardi Gras history re-evaluates the marque of Cain," 22 Aug. 2019

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
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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More from Merriam-Webster on anarchy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for anarchy

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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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