catastrophe

noun
ca·​tas·​tro·​phe | \ kə-ˈta-strə-(ˌ)fē How to pronounce catastrophe (audio) \
plural catastrophes

Definition of catastrophe

1 : a momentous tragic event ranging from extreme misfortune to utter overthrow or ruin Deforestation and erosion can lead to an ecological catastrophe.
2 : utter failure : fiasco the party was a catastrophe
3a : a violent and sudden change in a feature of the earth
b : a violent usually destructive natural event (such as a supernova)
4 : the final event of the dramatic action especially of a tragedy

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Other Words from catastrophe

catastrophic \ ˌka-​tə-​ˈsträ-​fik How to pronounce catastrophic (audio) \ adjective
catastrophically \ ˌka-​tə-​ˈsträ-​fi-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce catastrophically (audio) \ adverb

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.

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
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Recent Examples on the Web

Amid the fissile atmosphere in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, a single mistake could unleash catastrophe. Sam Kiley, CNN, "On the ship that downed a military drone, one small mistake could cause a war with Iran," 19 July 2019 Avoiding catastrophe War has driven millions from their homes into neighboring countries. Paul Salopek, National Geographic, "A storyteller chronicles the mass migrations that define our age," 17 July 2019 That only one worker was operating the Lac-Mégantic train was a major factor in the catastrophe. Ian Austen, New York Times, "A Runaway Train Explosion Killed 47, but Deadly Cargo Still Rides the Rails," 16 July 2019 Although this was a serious test, no one expected the catastrophe that unfolded inside the capsule. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "The Greatest Leap, part 1: How the Apollo fire propelled NASA to the Moon," 16 July 2019 The governor, treasurer and insurance commissioner will also serve on the nine-member catastrophe council. Kathleen Pender, SFChronicle.com, "California’s master of disaster talks quake-rate hike, new wildfire fund," 16 July 2019 But the next 200 years unspooled in a series of unmitigated political and economic catastrophes. Fortune, "5 Bottles That Will Put You at the Center of Irish Whiskey’s Renaissance," 13 July 2019 Beyond the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding at the southern border, Trump axed Obama’s emphasis on deporting immigrants with serious criminal records or who posed a national security threat. Anthony W. Fontes, The Conversation, "The long, bipartisan history of dealing with immigrants harshly," 9 July 2019 Ansari’s comeback was never going to be a Louis-level catastrophe. Judy Berman, Time, "Aziz Ansari Says All the Right Things—But Implicates Everyone—in His Netflix Comeback Special," 9 July 2019

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.

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First Known Use of catastrophe

1540, in the meaning defined at sense 4

History and Etymology for catastrophe

Greek katastrophē, from katastrephein to overturn, from kata- + strephein to turn

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Statistics for catastrophe

Last Updated

22 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for catastrophe

The first known use of catastrophe was in 1540

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More Definitions for catastrophe

catastrophe

noun

English Language Learners Definition of catastrophe

: a terrible disaster

catastrophe

noun
ca·​tas·​tro·​phe | \ kə-ˈta-strə-fē How to pronounce catastrophe (audio) \

Kids Definition of catastrophe

1 : a sudden disaster The oil spill was an environmental catastrophe.
2 : complete failure : fiasco The party was a catastrophe.

catastrophe

noun
ca·​tas·​tro·​phe | \ kə-ˈtas-trə-fē How to pronounce catastrophe (audio) \

Medical Definition of catastrophe

: death (as from an inexplicable cause) before, during, or after an operation

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