There is a Hungarian word fejetlenség, literally, having no head, in the state of having no head, meaning a situation where a state or an organisation is an unruly mess.

Is there an English expression for this?


gives many synonyms

but I did not find one that uses this way of expression

a figurative one

is there one?

UPDATE: unruly mess itself might be close, as


says unruly is "unwilling to submit authority", in my words: disobedience

but what I want to emphasize is that there is no authority, not that people rebel against it

  • 1
    That's one of the many meanings of free. In specific contexts, unruly itself has that sense, with transparent morphology. Jul 26, 2016 at 13:57
  • 4
    The English idiom 'running around like a headless chicken' describes the chaos of headlessness. It would be difficult to apply to the case of having no boss.
    – grateful
    Jul 26, 2016 at 14:00
  • @grateful so headlessness is a word in English, good. Only it is not used in the figurative meaning I describe above, only literally for an animal, I guess.
    – Gergely
    Jul 26, 2016 at 14:03
  • 1
    Yes, in the sense of not having a head (face, scull, etc.). For a boss it would be 'leaderless'.
    – grateful
    Jul 26, 2016 at 14:06
  • You could describe the situation as "the blind leading the blind".
    – user57709
    Jul 26, 2016 at 16:10

3 Answers 3


You should consider rudderless to describe the organisation when no (real) boss is present.

rudderless (adjective)
(of an organization) without anyone in control and therefore unable to take decisions

You should check unaccountable from the perspective of the staff when no (real) boss is present.


: not required to explain actions or decisions

: not required to be responsible for something

  • that is about a leader who abuses his power. I want to express that a leader is weak and lets the organisation fall apart.
    – Gergely
    Jul 26, 2016 at 14:14
  • 1
    I have edited the answer to describe the organisation as well (rudderless). The term unaccountable is to describe the staff; clarified this point as well. Jul 26, 2016 at 14:39
  • 1
    I think rudderless is a good choice, to describe the country or organisation. Jul 26, 2016 at 14:47
  • @alwayslearning thanks, that contains the meaning I sought.
    – Gergely
    Jul 26, 2016 at 14:50



From Webster

  1. without a head

  2. without a leader

or even simply


Although it does not show as an individual entry in the dictionary, its' the most common.

Compare leaderless with headless and rudderless, the later does not even register in Ngram.

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"Acephalous" is a rare word, but it's legitimate English - basically a Greek calque off the word "headless."

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