haywire

When something goes haywire, it's out of control or completely chaotic. You'll sense that things have gone haywire at a birthday party if suddenly the young guests are having a crazed water gun fight indoors.

A riot is an extreme example of things going haywire, when people get angry enough about something that they ignore rules and laws, breaking windows and setting things on fire. A less serious case of things gone haywire could be a flock of chickens escaping an enclosure, running loose in your vegetable garden. The literal, and original, meaning of haywire is "wire used to bind hay." The wire's "springy unpredictability" led to today's common definition.

Definitions of haywire
  1. noun
    wire for tying up bales of hay
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    type of:
    wire
    ligament made of metal and used to fasten things or make cages or fences etc
  2. adjective
    informal or slang terms for mentally irregular
    synonyms: around the bend, balmy, barmy, bats, batty, bonkers, buggy, cracked, crackers, daft, dotty, fruity, kookie, kooky, loco, loony, loopy, nuts, nutty, round the bend, wacky, whacky
    insane
    afflicted with or characteristic of mental derangement
  3. adjective
    not functioning properly
    “has gone completely haywire
    synonyms: amiss, awry, wrong
    malfunctioning, nonfunctional
    not performing or able to perform its regular function
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