catastrophe

play
noun ca·tas·tro·phe \kə-ˈtas-trə-(ˌ)fē\

Definition of catastrophe

plural

catastrophes

  1. 1 :  the final event of the dramatic action especially of a tragedy

  2. 2 :  a momentous tragic event ranging from extreme misfortune to utter overthrow or ruin Deforestation and erosion can lead to an ecological catastrophe.

  3. 3a :  a violent and sudden change in a feature of the earthb :  a violent usually destructive natural event (such as a supernova)

  4. 4 :  utter failure :  fiasco the party was a catastrophe

catastrophic

play \ˌka-tə-ˈsträ-fik\ adjective

catastrophically

play \-fi-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

catastrophe was our Word of the Day on 04/28/2011. Hear the podcast!

Examples of catastrophe in a Sentence

  1. The oil spill was an environmental catastrophe.

  2. Experts fear a humanitarian catastrophe if food isn't delivered to the refugees soon.

  3. an area on the brink of catastrophe

Recent Examples of catastrophe from the Web

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


CATASTROPHE Defined for English Language Learners

catastrophe

play
noun

Definition of catastrophe for English Language Learners

  • : a terrible disaster


CATASTROPHE Defined for Kids

catastrophe

play
noun ca·tas·tro·phe \kə-ˈta-strə-fē\

Definition of catastrophe for Students

  1. 1 :  a sudden disaster The oil spill was an environmental catastrophe.

  2. 2 :  complete failure :  fiasco The party was a catastrophe.


Medical Dictionary

catastrophe

play
noun ca·tas·tro·phe \kə-ˈtas-trə-fē\

Medical Definition of catastrophe

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



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