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 all the other catastrophes in the United Kingdom right now, Prince Harry found the time to apparently disparage Fortnite. Hayden Dingman, PCWorld, "This week in games: Borderlands 3 is an Epic exclusive, Obsidian shows off The Outer Worlds," 5 Apr. 2019 The blackout and the chaos that has ensued is a metaphor for the catastrophe known as Venezuela. Mary Anastasia O’grady, WSJ, "Pressure Mounts in Venezuela," 10 Mar. 2019 Or more prosaically, the catastrophe that awaits everyone from a single false move, wrong turn, fatal encounter. Sam Roberts, New York Times, "Charles Krauthammer, Prominent Conservative Voice, Dies at 68," 21 June 2018 The Chinese Cultural Revolution was a bitter thing, a catastrophe comparable in its societal effects, and similar in its historical feel, to the terrors of Stalin and the French Revolution. Peggy Noonan, WSJ, "Get Ready for the Struggle Session," 7 Mar. 2019 Our interviews uncovered new details about not only the catastrophe but also the investigation that followed. Margaret Lazarus Dean, Popular Mechanics, "The Oral History of the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster," 28 Jan. 2019 But not every car accident makes the news, while the intense media coverage of public disasters can lend the impression that catastrophe is inevitable. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "10 Important Safety Tips to Keep in Mind When You’re in a Crowd," 20 Sep. 2018 The 22-page memo from the Office of Legal Counsel says the president acted within his legal authority as commander-in-chief to protect vital national interests — stopping the spread of chemical weapons and preventing a humanitarian catastrophe. Gregory Korte, USA TODAY, "Trump lawyers: Syria missile strikes were legal because they weren't 'war'," 1 June 2018 Some are already asking questions about whether enough was done after the last flood to prevent a similar catastrophe. CBS News, "Man missing after "1,000-year flood" ravages Ellicott City for 2nd time in two years," 28 May 2018

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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Last Updated

15 Apr 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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