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"Your order is meaningless, my chaos is significant" — Nathanael West

"Before the ocean and the earth appeared— before the skies had overspread them all— the face of Nature in a vast expanse was naught but Chaos uniformly waste. It was a rude and undeveloped mass, that nothing made except a ponderous weight; and all discordant elements confused, were there congested in a shapeless heap." --Metamorphoses by Ovid (Brookes More translation)

Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons
This page Chaos is part of the disorder series.Illustration:Liberty Leading the People (1831, detail) by Eugène Delacroix.
This page Chaos is part of the disorder series.
Illustration:Liberty Leading the People (1831, detail) by Eugène Delacroix.

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Chaos in Ancient Greek meant a vast chasm or abyss. It was the unordered state of matter in classical accounts of cosmogony. It meant "the primal emptiness, space" (see Chaos (mythology)).

Today, the term refers to any state of disorder, any confused or amorphous mixture or conglomeration.

Chaos features three main characteristics:

  • it is a bottomless gulf where anything falls endlessly. This radically contrasts with the Earth that emerges from it to offer a stable ground.
  • it is a place without any possible orientation, where anything falls in every direction.
  • it is a space that separates, that divides: after the Earth and the Sky parted, Chaos remains between both of them.


Borrowed from Ancient Greek χάος (vast chasm, void).

Chaos is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root ghn or ghen meaning "gape, be wide open": compare "chasm" (from Greek, and Anglo-Saxon gānian ("yawn"), geanian, ginian ("gape wide"); see also Old Norse Ginnungagap. Due to people misunderstanding early Christian uses of the word, the meaning of the word changed to "disorder". (The Ancient Greek for "disorder" is ταραχή.).

In Early Modern English used in the sense of the original Greek word. In the meaning primordial matter from the 16th century. Figurative usage in the sense "confusion, disorder" from the 17th century. The technical sense in mathematics and science dates to the 1960s.

Chaos (cosmogony)

Chaos (cosmogony)

Chaos (Greek khaos) refers to the formless or void state of primordial matter preceding the creation of the universe or cosmos in creation myths, particularly Greek but also in related religions of the Ancient Near East.

Fifth-century Orphic cosmogony had a "Womb of Darkness" in which the Wind lay a Cosmic Egg whence Eros was hatched, who set the universe in motion.

The motif of chaoskampf is ubiquitous in these myths, depicting a battle of a culture hero deity with a chaos monster, often in the shape of a serpent or dragon.

See also


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Chaos" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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