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 The catastrophe on one side of the world has run its course. Susan Glaser, cleveland, "National World War II Museum in New Orleans tells an emotional, heart-wrenching tale," 9 Feb. 2020 Burning is not the only cause of death in this catastrophe. Abby Jones, The Conversation, "Rotting feral pig carcasses teach scientists what happens when tons of animals die all at once, as in Australia’s bushfires," 10 Jan. 2020 The story of the European catastrophe has been told many times. Samuel Goldman, National Review, "The Populist Wager," 9 Jan. 2020 Of course, the majority of the Pompeiians’ actual fare was lost in the catastrophe. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "Dine Like a Doomed Pompeiian at This Upscale Eatery," 27 Dec. 2019 The agency provides trailers or temporary manufactured homes, as well as rental assistance for eligible people who lose their housing in a catastrophe. Anna Bauman, SFChronicle.com, "The Scanner: DNA solves 1982 double-murder cold case in Fremont," 23 Dec. 2019 Long road ahead Abiy and his allies seem committed to ending the political catastrophe that has seen huge numbers of Ethiopians being ignored. Yohannes Gedamu, Quartz Africa, "The new political party of Ethiopia’s Abiy holds much promise but faces significant hurdles," 13 Dec. 2019 Scientists say that collective action is key to making a dent in the global-warming catastrophe. Anne Quito, Quartz, "TED wants to become the global hub for the climate change crisis," 5 Dec. 2019 The potato blight affected all of Europe, but government mismanagement resulted in catastrophe for the then British colony of Ireland. Carmel Mc Mahon, Longreads, "Brigid, Magdalene, My Mother, and Me," 13 Nov. 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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Time Traveler for catastrophe

Time Traveler

The first known use of catastrophe was in 1540

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Last Updated

18 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Catastrophe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/catastrophes. Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for catastrophe

catastrophe

noun
How to pronounce catastrophe (audio)

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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