When I was a teen, in a summer camp we enjoyed a sort of game that we played during so-called naptime after the midday meal. Split into pairs, the boys decided who would be horses and who horsemen, then the latter, blindfolded and having a pillow in their hands, mounted their companions and the fight in an absolutely indiscriminate way began. Actually, there were no established rules of that game, just chaotic pillow fight and a lot of fun.

Someone suggested calling it "беспредел" (bespredel), which hit the bull's eye, being a Russian choice word, prison lingo though, for the situation when something not only illegal but also utterly unjust, immoral, socially unacceptable becomes a standard pattern of individual behavior. And it is the English word for the Russian one I'm trying to find, so far fruitlessly. Any suggestions, especially of something informal, slangy will be highly appreciated.

P.S. Trying to clarify my request, I think I should add that technically, the Russian word беспредел is formed by the prefix бес- meaning without and the root -предел- meaning limit, margin. When we talk broadly about беспредел, we mean unlimited and barely if any controlled wrongdoing in different scopes of application. For example, in law it may appear as the travesty of justice, in the army as vicious hazing of young soldiers by older ones, in governance as red tape and bribery, in policing as unjustified cruelty and neglecting the law, and so on. In my example with the game, its name was chosen because of the absence of any rules: you have a pillow and heads to beat with it, what comes next is a total беспредел on the level of the game—one for himself and against everyone else. So lawlessness it may be but only partially because what illegal is done by беспредел is the lower, unseen part of the iceberg which top may look just alright.

  • 2
    Some extra details would be nice. Like, if something makes the change from "reprehensible" to "normal" over centuries, does that count? Or, if it's something that's unacceptable in most situations but standard "right here, right now"? Apr 27, 2018 at 18:53
  • You know what, I think it would be best if you provided a sample sentence or two with the word you're looking for written as a series of blanks. Apr 27, 2018 at 19:19
  • For those who can read Russian, here's the article I've just found about ten Russian words that seem impossible to be translated into English. Беспредел happens to be among them, which I don't believe.
    – Victor B.
    Apr 27, 2018 at 20:54
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    I'm not sure what part of your blindfolded, piggy-back pillow fight example is supposed to be "illegal, unjust, immoral and socially unacceptable". Were people coerced or pressured into it? Was the assignment of roles unfair? Apr 28, 2018 at 0:23
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    I think the way you've presented your question, the readers think that you mean for the game to be an example of the sort of behavior you want a word for. Which, as @user2357112 points out, doesn't really seem to have anything to do with "illegal", "immoral", "standard pattern of behavior" or such thing. So it's rather unclear precisely what you're asking for.
    – user6619
    Apr 28, 2018 at 3:39

11 Answers 11


Some words you could consider are mayhem and anarchy:


  1. a state of rowdy disorder:
    Antagonisms between the various factions at the meeting finally boiled over, and mayhem ensued.



  1. A state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority or other controlling systems.
    ‘he must ensure public order in a country threatened with anarchy’ (OLD)

Mayhem seems self-explanatory. I would say anarchy could fit if you played the game without the camp counselors'/directors' permission, or "when they weren't looking".


Consider the term bedlam:

a noisy situation with no order

Example sentence:

It was bedlam at the football stadium after the match was suspended.

Note that this word is primarily used to describe a situation whose level of lawlessness and disorder is going over the top and not an individual's immoral or corrupt behavior as you seem to be requesting in the title. The term lawlessness (a lack of law, in any of the various senses of that word), on the other hand, would be, as far as I know, the exact English translation of the Russian term беспредел. At least, that's how most publications writing about Russia refer to this concept in English. And with a good amount of sarcasm, you can always reduce the level of formality that's carried along with any word:

What the hell is going on in there? Everybody's fighting! Total anarchy and lawlessness!

But I'd personally go for bedlam as it is the most neutral and safest word for the type of situation you're talking about in your question.

Another very good word for a noisy situation with no order would be brouhaha:

A brouhaha, from French brouhaha, is a state of social agitation when a minor incident gets out of control, sometimes referred to as an uproar or hubbub.

Though not very commonly employed to talk about overly violent behavior, this one can be used to describe a fist fight in a bar. For instance:

A ferocious brouhaha broke out in the bar leaving five people injured.

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    Note this derives from the name of an infamous insane asylum in London, St. Mary of Bethlehem
    – Andrew
    Apr 27, 2018 at 15:58
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    "Bedlam" doesn't indicate a standard pattern of individual behavior. You could have just as easily misused "chaos". Apr 27, 2018 at 16:05
  • It seems to me that the OP is asking for a word to describe a situation with that condition. Not the condition (a standard pattern of individual behavior) itself. He even gives an example—*беспередел* (lawlessness, which actually is the English term for this). I gave bedlam as an example as this term seems to be the one that's closest in meaning to lawlessness if the OP for some reason doesn't like it. Apr 27, 2018 at 16:41
  • If Russian is your mother tongue, you may know where the Russian term comes from. It's so specific that even politicians use it instead of "lawlessness". There's even a set phrase "правовой беспредел" that has little to do with fighting, lunatics, or over-heated disputations; not that I don't like it, it's somewhat not matching my request as you see it. Thanks for the interest, though, and I'm upvoting your effort.
    – Victor B.
    Apr 27, 2018 at 16:53
  • Not to nitpick, @MichaelRybkin, but the OP specifically stated that the word relates to those qualities as applied to an individual who has demonstrated a repeated pattern of behavior. This isn't something I made up. It's right there in his original question. Apr 27, 2018 at 18:52

In addition to the bedlam suggestion, here are a couple of others:

A free-for-all is a chaotic situation where "anything goes." It's a bit milder than complete lawlessness; maybe it would describe the situation in a toy store when an extremely popular toy is available in limited numbers right before Christmas and the shoppers get into a brawl.

Some people might say, "It's like Lord of the Flies." This refers to a classic novel by William Golding that almost all English-speaking children read in school. It refers to a bunch of schoolboys who are stranded on an island and end up creating their own society that is quite brutal and uncivilized.

  • Free-for-all is a great name for the game
    – Victor B.
    Apr 27, 2018 at 20:46

The answer would depend on "the situation".

You could call it a kakotopia, a situation where the worst possible things are the status quo.

  • A most interesting word I'm taking note of.
    – Victor B.
    Apr 27, 2018 at 17:11
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    That is a very rare word. Very few people will understand it.
    – James K
    Apr 27, 2018 at 19:08
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    Its kind-of synonym dystopia may be more familiar.
    – user30887
    Apr 27, 2018 at 21:00
  • 2
    But dystopia doesn't quite capture the sense that the aberrant is the new normal.
    – TimR
    Apr 27, 2018 at 21:28

Depravity: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/depravity

1 : a corrupt act or practice the depravities of war 2 : the quality or state of being corrupt, evil, or perverted : the quality or state of being depraved He is awed by its fabulous wealth but deeply troubled by what he sees as its moral depravity … —Nicholas D. Kristof


how about debased?

  1. [with object] Reduce (something) in quality or value; degrade. ‘the love episodes debase the dignity of the drama’

    1.1 Lower the moral character of (someone)

Usage here would apply the word to the appropriate situation. I feel it's a good fit because your rough translation (thank you very much, by the way. it helps ensure the proposed word is true to the one used in your language) of "without" and "margin" is similar to "de" (remove/omit) "based" (foundation).

maybe others have better suggestions. I thought suggesting 'debased' may help with future suggestions if you feel this word doesn't capture the meaning.


A few words without associated political meaning, like anarchy has, are...


As in:

*The boys rough-housed with unfettered delight.*

Unfettered is a synonym for unchained and is slightly more allegorical in meaning. It often describes intangible chains, like rules. So it’s a one-word, more elegant way to say “without rules.”

Alternatively, rampant is another way to describe wild, unrestrained behavior, with a slightly negative or unwanted behavior, such as:

Rampant vine growth is killing my garden.”

“I got little sleep because my neighbor’s rampant sex kept me up.”

Rampant opioid abuse is killing middle America.”

“The days of rampant play with my friends at summer camp were memorable.”

A more slang-ish term could be balls-out.

As in:

“He sprinted balls-out.


“I remember summers as just balls-out fun.

Balls-out is, of course, a slightly crass synonym for unrestrained, rule breaking action... with a slightly more positive or humorous meaning.

EDIT: my original answer with the below phrase doesn’t quite hit the mark, in fact it’s wrong, but is at least another way describing misbehavior become acceptable. It received an upvote, so I won’t just delete it, but it’s not correct.

English doesn’t quite have a single word which encapsulates the meaning for which you ask; but it does have a phrase:

normalization of deviance

This was a term made famous by NASA, meaning “Social normalization of deviance means that people within the organization become so much accustomed to a deviation that they don't consider it as deviant, despite the fact that they far exceed their own rules for the elementary safety.”

The term is also used to describe behavior in criminal justice.


Profligacy (adj. profligate) would fit well here:

The first definition from dictionary.com is

utterly and shamelessly immoral or dissipated; thoroughly dissolute


The first few answers here are offered up in the results of searching for the word "беспредел", so my answer assumes you've already done some research, found these suggestions, and rejected them as not being the specific answer you're looking for. Reading your entire question with the edit gives me the impression it's a word similar to savage or ruthless or even scrupleless, though these are definitely missing the connotation of the institutionalization (or at least normalization) of the behavior as implied by the use of corrupt. I strongly remember previously having seen use of a word which would be a great fit, but I can't remember it and I can't seem to find it again (initially I thought a translation of Herodotus describing Babylonian temple prostitution used the word I'm thinking of, but after looking, I see that it does not, merely describing the practice as foul). In terms of Dungeons and Dragons, we are describing evil-aligned characters and communities, but I can't find a single word for these. So in lieu of something more precise, I offer two suggestions, with definitions pulled from Google's default definition result:

degenerate: "having lost the physical, mental, or moral qualities considered normal and desirable; showing evidence of decline."

debauched: "indulging in or characterized by sensual pleasures to a degree perceived to be morally harmful; dissolute."


It's not suggestive of your fun game, but I would use a term, "normalized corruption" for the societal examples. Normalized meaning "become the standard" or literally "become the accepted societal norm" and corruption being both the political loss of ethical behavior and also the corrosion of life standards.

Not a common phrase, but I think it would be understandable.


There was recently an entire TV series on the A&E network about a chemistry teacher who had been a good, law-abiding person his whole life, but after finding out he was dying of cancer, he started making and selling drugs, committing murders, and generally violating many societal norms, laws, and moral codes. The name of the series was also a description of what the main character was going through:

Breaking Bad

If a person changes from being a good person to being an evil person, you could say that the person "broke bad" and that the event was that person "breaking bad".

In this phrase, break and breaking are not necessarily related to failure or damage (although that connotation does work in this context). Instead, break is likely to be used in the sense of "turn". For example, when a combat fighter pilot wants to instruct another combat fighter pilot to turn left immediately and sharply, they will say, "break left!"

In a similar sense, to break bad is to turn evil, or turn away from the good.

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