Definition of catastrophe
- Deforestation and erosion can lead to an ecological catastrophe.
- the party was a catastrophe
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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
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.
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.
: a terrible disaster
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