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

It’s been suggested that viewers’ interest stems from the series’ depiction of an environmental catastrophe, its political relevance, or its reflection of a new Cold War sensibility. Matt Brennan, chicagotribune.com, "No one is more surprised by ‘Chernobyl’s’ success than creator Craig Mazin," 20 June 2019 It’s been suggested that viewers’ interest stems from the series’ depiction of an environmental catastrophe, its political relevance, or its reflection of a new Cold War sensibility. Matt Brennan, latimes.com, "No one is more surprised by ‘Chernobyl’s’ success than creator Craig Mazin," 19 June 2019 The natural party of government for much of the past century-and-a-half could face catastrophe, in the form of an internal split or a wipeout in the next election. The Economist, "The question is not who will lead the Conservative Party, but whether it will survive," 13 June 2019 Facing economic catastrophe, Iran has threatened to retreat from the accord itself unless European parties throw it an lifeline. Bloomberg News, The Mercury News, "Tanker attacks raise fears of Persian Gulf unrest," 13 June 2019 In broad strokes, Democratic candidates tend to support universal health care, large investments to fight the oncoming climate catastrophe, increasing taxes on the wealthy, and democratic reforms aimed at guaranteeing broad voter access. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Democrats Are Winning the Battle of Ideas, But Could Still Lose the War," 10 June 2019 But the semiconductor sector is still up 6.5% for the year so far, hardly a catastrophe just yet. James Mackintosh, WSJ, "Investors Slowly Wake Up to Fears of a New Cold War," 23 May 2019 Even a strike against tiny North Korea runs the risk of a nuclear counterstrike by China, and the loss of just one American city would be a catastrophe. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Does America Still Need the Nuclear Triad?," 23 Jan. 2019 Some events such as hurricanes or earthquakes or personal catastrophes are not predictable like the annual march of the sun. Steven Austad, AL.com, "Star gazing in the 21st century," 28 Apr. 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

24 Jun 2019

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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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