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

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 Earlier this year, a meme comparing what happens in boys’ and girls’ locker rooms took off, the general gist of which was that girls complained about gym class in their locker room and boys turned theirs into a Mad Max state of anarchy. Casey Newton, The Verge, "It’s time to end “trending” on Twitter," 13 Aug. 2019 Capable of being inserted whimsically just about anywhere, the em-dash effectively has no rules, and is therefore horribly suited to an era of semantic anarchy. Lionel Shriver, Harper's magazine, "Semantic Drift," 22 July 2019 Since overthrown, Libya has been in a state of anarchy and is divided among several political and military factions. Fox News, "French missiles found on rogue Libyan general’s base," 10 July 2019 Based on Roald Dahl’s novel, ‘Matilda the Musical’ revels in the anarchy of childhood, the power of imagination and the inspiring story of a girl who dreams for a better life. Steve Schering, chicagotribune.com, "‘Matilda the Musical’ welcomes incoming OPRF High School theater students," 8 July 2019 Everything is a crisis, everything is the last step before anarchy. Kyle Sammin, National Review, "Oregon Democrats Outsource Their Duty to Drag Republicans Back to the Legislature," 28 June 2019 In recent months, Venezuela has suffered massive electrical blackouts that have brought major cities to the brink of anarchy and made communicating with remote parts of Canaima even more difficult than usual. Michael Canyon Meyer, Outside Online, "The Murder of Venezuela's Visionary Adventure Guide," 24 June 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

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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