The Etymology of the Word, “Anarchy”

Words are used to abstractly convey ideas through a particular series of signs or sounds. As they have evolved alongside the growth of human liberty, the expansion of literacy contributed a unique quality to our sentience by increasing the variety of nuance within our own roles in the world. Unfortunately, whenever there is an emerging tyranny in the hearts and minds of average men, language is one of the first victims to suffer, for indoctrination can only take root if the social engineers invent a subtext all their own, ideally one that contradicts the very essence of the words they seek to undermine and destroy.



Etymology is an academic field of study dedicated to the historicity of words. The whole point of this intellectual discipline is to determine the historical origins of the words we use today. This is useful because as the meanings behind the words we use to write and speak evolve, it’s always good to keep in perspective where we have been so as to not lose our essence when moving into the future.

Take, for instance, the word “anarchy.” According to Ballantine’s, Bouvier’s, and Black’s law dictionaries, we see the following definitions, respectively:


“The absence of government; a state of society where there is no law or supreme power. Political disorder coupled with violence.”

“The absence of all political government; by extension, it signifies confusion in government.”

“The destruction of government; lawlessness; the absence of all political government; by extension, confusion in government.”


As you can see, only two definitions refer to violence (either implicitly or explicitly), another combination of two definitions mention “political confusion,” yet what all three definitions indicate is a non-existence of government. I find this last meaning of the word to be the most significant because it is the most common between all three law dictionaries. The Smooth Terrorist (formerly known as Fake Sagan), when asked to define anarchy, said the following:


“I think the most simple and elegant solution is to go directly to the language that gave us the word, which is Greek. ‘Anarchy,’ the word has two parts; ‘an,’ that’s the first part, ‘a-r-c-h-y’ is the second. ‘A-n,’ what does that mean? It means ‘without.’ Soil that has oxygen in it is aerobic soil, soil that does not have oxygen is anaerobic soil, it means ‘without.’ ‘A-r-c-h-y,’ what’s ‘archy?’ In ancient Greece, an Archon was a municipal official, the boss, government; it’s a ruler. Other words in our language related to that, hierarchy (we all know what that means), [and] monarchy (when you have one Archon); so, you put those two halves together and you get ‘without rulers.’ Anarchy, without rulers. That’s what it means. It doesn’t mean anything else, and any other meaning that you would attribute to that is arbitrary, it’s just fiat, it doesn’t derive necessarily from the word itself; you’ve just colored it with your own opinion.”


While he may very well be correct, is there anything solid that can either verify or debunk his explanation? According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word “anarchy” is defined as:


“1530s, from [the] French anarchie or directly from Medieval Latin anarchia, from Greek anarkhia ‘lack of a leader, the state of people without a government’ (in Athens, used of the Year of Thirty Tyrants, 404 B.C., when there was no archon), noun of state from anarkhos ‘rulerless,’ from an– ‘without’ (see an– (1)) + arkhos ‘leader’ (see archon).”


In the interest of follow up, I checked to see what the Online Etymology Dictionary had to say about an and archon, respectively:


“Privative prefix, from Greek an-, ‘not, without,’ related to ne– and cognate with Sanksirt an-, Latin in-, Gothic and Old English un– (see un– (1)).”

“One of the nine chief magistrates of ancient Athens, 1650s, from Greek arkhon ‘ruler,’ noun use of present participle of arkhein ‘to rule,’ from PIE *arkhein– ‘to begin, rule, command,’ a ‘Gk. Verb of unknown origin, but showing archaic Indo-European features…with derivatives arkhe, ‘rule, beginning,’ and arkhos, ‘ruler’.”


So, it would seem that The Smooth Terrorist was right; the word “anarchy,” etymologically speaking, means “without rulers;” it does not mean chaos, violence, or disorder, in spite of what my 19th century law dictionaries say. Obviously, the implications of this is massive for those who are interested in securing their liberty.

Why do I even bother addressing this issue? I do so because the anarchist faction, as one of the friendly factions, are potentially good allies to cultivate. As Gary Hunt has said regarding them:


“The Founders enacted very few laws that acted directly on the people. For the most part, the laws enacted in the first few decades of the United States were laws to define, enhance, or protect the government. The exceptions were the moral laws, also known as Blue Laws, which generally existed within the confines of a town’s ordinance, or, perhaps, even county ordinances, in an effort to establish a moral foundation that was comfortable to the majority of those residing there. Otherwise, a degree of anarchy, at least by one definition, was a part of life of the times. There is an old adage that Liberty is existent so long as your fist stops before it reaches my nose. Our individual constraint on our own actions, so that we do no harm to others, is, perhaps, the best definition of that which should be. The modern anarchist, even those who might espouse absence of government, altogether, are not inconsistent with much of what the Founders believed. A minimum of government is, perhaps, best, and, is without a doubt, consistent with the Constitution and most state constitutions, at least as originally ratified.”


In other words, the Founding Fathers didn’t care too much for rulers; hell, they successfully fought off a empire’s worth of rulers, literally. If indeed restoring the Constitution makes it possible for me to live on this portion of the North American continent without rulers, then that is a world I would like to manifest. Whenever the anarchist faction chooses to get its act together and stop balkanizing its various schools of anarchism against each other, as even one of their own has publicly requested they all do, then I think we’ll begin to have a real shot of finally, at long last, securing our liberty not only for ourselves, but quite possibly, for the next seven generations.

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3 Responses to The Etymology of the Word, “Anarchy”

  1. Pingback: A History of Dragnet Wiretapping | From the Trenches World Report

  2. John Mason Hart says:

    The original form of governance entailed community gatherings in the form of circles so everyone could hear, see, and participate (Kivas in Native American culture). They had to decide on community issues such as hydraulic agriculture, sewage projects, etc. We have been tricked by bullies, authoritarians, monarchists, capitalists, and others in favor of hierarchy, to think of it as chaos. I bet a monarchist came up with the phony definition.

  3. Pingback: Texans for Accountable Government (TAG) Meeting (9/28/2015) - Liberty Under Attack

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