Definition of catastrophe
1 : the final event of the dramatic action especially of a tragedy
2 : a momentous tragic event ranging from extreme misfortune to utter overthrow or ruin Deforestation and erosion can lead to an ecological catastrophe.
3a : a violent and sudden change in a feature of the earthb : a violent usually destructive natural event (such as a supernova)
4 : utter failure : fiasco the party was a catastrophe
catastrophicplay \ˌka-tə-ˈsträ-fik\ adjective
catastrophicallyplay \-fi-k(ə-)lē\ adverb
catastrophe was our Word of the Day on 04/28/2011. Hear the podcast!
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Examples of catastrophe in a Sentence
The oil spill was an environmental catastrophe.
Experts fear a humanitarian catastrophe if food isn't delivered to the refugees soon.
an area on the brink of catastrophe
Recent Examples of catastrophe from the Web
Trump's argument is that catastrophe in the insurance markets will be enough to bring Democrats to the negotiating table.
That’s because the sturdiest organisms on Earth—not only tardigrades, but also microorganisms that thrive in extreme conditions—may resist a wide range of catastrophes, including humanmade ones such as global warming or nuclear wars.
Worst case, that chaos devolves into catastrophe (the Fyre Festival being an extreme example).
The event could trigger a collapse of the entire Larsen C ice shelf, a catastrophe that could raise worldwide sea levels by four inches, researchers estimate.
Many grilled squid experiments end up in curled little catastrophes, complete with pockets of slimy flesh.
While casting blame on everyone else, Trump is reportedly toying with the idea of firing Mueller—a move that would all but guarantee political catastrophe for the already historically unpopular president.
Blood Drive, a new horror series on SyFy, is set in a distant future in which a series of earthquakes caused by fracking has set off an environmental catastrophe.
Upon its debut, the clock was set to seven minutes to midnight (on the Doomsday Clock, midnight signifies, well, doomsday: total catastrophe).
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'catastrophe.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Did You Know?
When English speakers first borrowed the Greek word catastrophe in the 1500s, they used it for the conclusion or final event of a dramatic work, especially of a tragedy. By the early 1600s, "catastrophe" was being used more generally of any generally unhappy conclusion or disastrous or ruinous end. By the 18th century, "catastrophe" had come to denote truly devastating events, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Finally, it came to be applied to things that are only figuratively catastrophic - burnt dinners, lost luggage, really bad movies, etc.
Origin and Etymology of catastrophe
Greek katastrophē, from katastrephein to overturn, from kata- + strephein to turn
First Known Use: 1540See Words from the same year
CATASTROPHE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of catastrophe for English Language Learners
: a terrible disaster
CATASTROPHE Defined for Kids
Medical Definition of catastrophe
: death (as from an inexplicable cause) before, during, or after an operation
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