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See more synonyms for chaos on Thesaurus.com
  1. a state of utter confusion or disorder; a total lack of organization or order.
  2. any confused, disorderly mass: a chaos of meaningless phrases.
  3. the infinity of space or formless matter supposed to have preceded the existence of the ordered universe.
  4. (initial capital letter) the personification of this in any of several ancient Greek myths.
  5. Obsolete. a chasm or abyss.
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Origin of chaos

1400–50; late Middle English < Latin < Greek; akin to chasm, yawn, gape


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for chaos

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • My health, which had ever been feeble, was endangered by this state of chaos.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • Here was a splendid end to chaos and blind wrestling with life.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

  • There all had been matter and chaos, here all was mind and a will to find a way out of confusion.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

  • He dared not stir, for all the world seemed to be dissolving into chaos.

  • A maid was there, and the furniture might have stood as a type of chaos.

    The First Violin

    Jessie Fothergill

British Dictionary definitions for chaos


  1. complete disorder; utter confusion
  2. (usually capital) the disordered formless matter supposed to have existed before the ordered universe
  3. an obsolete word for abyss
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Derived Formschaotic (keɪˈɒtɪk), adjectivechaotically, adverb

Word Origin

C15: from Latin, from Greek khaos; compare chasm, yawn
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for chaos


late 14c., "gaping void," from Old French chaos (14c.) or directly from Latin chaos, from Greek khaos "abyss, that which gapes wide open, is vast and empty," from *khnwos, from PIE root *gheu- "to gape, yawn" (cf. Greek khaino "I yawn," Old English ginian, Old Norse ginnunga-gap; see yawn (v.)).

Meaning "utter confusion" (c.1600) is extended from theological use of chaos for "the void at the beginning of creation" in Vulgate version of Genesis (1530s in English). The Greek for "disorder" was tarakhe, however the use of chaos here was rooted in Hesiod ("Theogony"), who describes khaos as the primeval emptiness of the Universe, begetter of Erebus and Nyx ("Night"), and in Ovid ("Metamorphoses"), who opposes Khaos to Kosmos, "the ordered Universe." Meaning "orderless confusion" in human affairs is from c.1600. Chaos theory in the modern mathematical sense is attested from c.1977.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

chaos in Science


  1. The behavior of systems that follow deterministic laws but appear random and unpredictable. Chaotic systems very are sensitive to initial conditions; small changes in those conditions can lead to quite different outcomes. One example of chaotic behavior is the flow of air in conditions of turbulence. See more at fractal.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

chaos in Culture


A new branch of science that deals with systems whose evolution depends very sensitively upon the initial conditions. Turbulent flows of fluids (such as white water in a river) and the prediction of the weather are two areas where chaos theory has been applied with some success.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.