- Date: 1597
- 1 : an imaginary and indefinitely remote place
- 2 : often capitalized : a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions
- 3 : an impractical scheme for social improvement
Utopia (in English /juˈtoʊpiə/) is a name for an ideal community or society, which is taken from Of the Best State of a Republic, and of the New Island Utopia, a book written in 1516 by Sir Thomas More describing a fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean, possessing a seemingly perfect socio-politico-legal system. The term has been used to describe both intentional communities that attempted to create an ideal society, and fictional societies portrayed in literature. It has spawned other concepts, most prominently dystopia.
The word comes from the Greek: οὐ, "not", and τόπος, "place", indicating that More was utilizing the concept as allegory and did not consider such an ideal place to be realistically possible. The English homophone Eutopia (/juˈtoʊpiə/), derived from the Greek εὖ, "good" or "well", and τόπος, "place", signifies a double meaning.
More's Utopia is largely based on Plato's Republic. It is a perfect version of Republic wherein the beauties of society reign (eg: equality and a general pacifist attitude), although its citizens are all ready to fight if need be. The evils of society, eg: poverty and misery, are all removed. It has few laws, no lawyers and rarely sends its citizens to war, but hires mercenaries from among its war-prone neighbors (these mercenaries were deliberately sent into dangerous situations in the hope that the more warlike populations of all surrounding countries will be weeded out, leaving peaceful peoples). The society encourages tolerance of all religions. Some readers have chosen to accept this imaginary society as the realistic blueprint for a working nation, while others have postulated More intended nothing of the sort. Some maintain the position that More's Utopia functions only on the level of a satire, a work intended to reveal more about the England of his time than about an idealistic society. This interpretation is bolstered by the title of the book and nation, and its apparent equivocation between the Greek for "no place" and "good place": "Utopia" is a compound of the syllable ou-, meaning "no", and topos, meaning place. But the homonymous prefix eu-, meaning "good," also resonates in the word, with the implication that the perfectly "good place" is really "no place."