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

Other Words from catastrophe

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

Did you know?

When English speakers first borrowed the Greek word katastrophē (from katastrephein, meaning "to overturn") as catastrophe in the 1500s, they used it for the conclusion or final event of a dramatic work, especially of a tragedy. In time, catastrophe came to be used more generally of any unhappy conclusion, or disastrous or ruinous end. By the mid-18th century, it was being used 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
Recent Examples on the Web For Russia, a mission kill on a few radars or other sensor is a real catastrophe. Craig Hooper, Forbes, 8 June 2022 Was Covid an unprecedented catastrophe, as many people portrayed it? David Marchesephoto Illustration By Bráulio Amado, New York Times, 22 Apr. 2022 What Putin has done is an economic catastrophe for Russia. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 11 Mar. 2022 The United Nations and European countries proved unequal to the task, and the result was catastrophe. Jordan Michael Smith, The New Republic, 13 Apr. 2022 The storming of the capital, Grozny, in 1994 was a catastrophe, with soldiers in armored vehicles getting lost and lacking air support and working radios. Washington Post, 8 Apr. 2022 But Putin still believes in his heart that that was a catastrophe. CBS News, 30 Mar. 2022 This is a catastrophe, and the U.S. should do its part both to ease the suffering and to help relieve NATO allies like Poland. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 25 Mar. 2022 The result of all this was a political catastrophe for Wilson’s party. Dan Mclaughlin, National Review, 16 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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

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The first known use of catastrophe was in 1540

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Dictionary Entries Near catastrophe

catastasis

catastrophe

catastrophe theory

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Last Updated

17 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Catastrophe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/catastrophe. Accessed 28 Jun. 2022.

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More Definitions for catastrophe

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

More from Merriam-Webster on catastrophe

Nglish: Translation of catastrophe for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of catastrophe for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about catastrophe

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