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
3 : anarchism

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 What are some current, real-life examples of commerce anarchy in the industry? Gary Drenik, Forbes, 4 Jan. 2022 Just maybe, amid this anarchy, voters are starting to see that. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, 15 Dec. 2021 Keeping up with the anarchy might require a Magic 8-Ball. San Diego Union-Tribune, 14 Dec. 2021 Ramping up the anarchy with cries of jubilation, The rioters ran roughshod through the temple of the nation. John Lithgow, The New Yorker, 27 Sep. 2021 Soon, even the left-wing paradise on the coast would be infected by the anarchy the rich had created for less important people elsewhere. Victor Davis Hanson, Arkansas Online, 13 Sep. 2021 In his work, Zed tries to bring coherence to the baffling anarchy of experience. Mark Olsen Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 3 Sep. 2021 Some executives fear autonomous teams will create chaos and anarchy. Luc Hennekens, Forbes, 28 Oct. 2021 In May 1958, France was teetering on the edge of anarchy. Tom Mctague, The Atlantic, 9 Dec. 2021

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

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The first known use of anarchy was in 1539

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Dictionary Entries Near anarchy

anarcho-syndicalism

anarchy

anargyros

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Statistics for anarchy

Last Updated

24 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Anarchy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anarchy. Accessed 27 Jan. 2022.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on anarchy

Nglish: Translation of anarchy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of anarchy for Arabic Speakers

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