debacle

noun
de·​ba·​cle | \ dē-ˈbä-kəl How to pronounce debacle (audio) , di-, -ˈba- How to pronounce debacle (audio) ; nonstandard ˈde-bə-kəl How to pronounce debacle (audio) \
variants: or less commonly débâcle \ also  dā-​ˈbäk(lᵊ) How to pronounce débâcle (audio) \

Definition of debacle

1a : a great disaster
b : a complete failure : fiasco
2 : a tumultuous breakup of ice in a river
3 : a violent disruption (as of an army) : rout

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The Origin of Debacle Is French

Debacle comes from the French noun débâcle, which comes from the verb débâcler, meaning "to clear," "to unbolt," or "to unbar." That verb is from Middle French desbacler, which joined the prefix des- (equivalent to our de-, meaning "to do the opposite of") with the verb "bacler" ("to block"). In its original uses, "debacle" meant a breaking up of ice, or the rush of ice or water that follows such an occurrence. Eventually, "debacle" was used also to mean "a violent, destructive flood." Naturally, such uses led to meanings such as "a breaking up," "collapse," and finally "disaster" or "fiasco."

Examples of debacle in a Sentence

What a debacle. Next thing he knew, one of the patients would turn up dead. — T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Road to Wellville, 1993 So what had been intended as an orderly hearing ended in a general debacle, for as soon as Fray Domingo saw his protector dragged toward the exit door, he leaped at the guards and began pummeling them. — James A. Michener, Texas, 1985 Savings themselves evaporate in the course of such a debacle and thus the very wherewithal for reversing and retrieving the situation is lost … — Jane Jacobs, Cities and the Wealth of Nations, 1984 After the debacle of his first novel, he had trouble getting a publisher for his next book. the financial debacle that was the stock market crash of 1929
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Recent Examples on the Web

Neymar is fully fit and will be joined in attack by World Cup newcomers Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho, with Thiago Motta -- suspended in that 7-1 debacle against Germany in 2014 -- anchoring the back line. Motez Bishara, CNN, "World Cup: Is Russia 2018 the last chance for Messi and Ronaldo?," 13 June 2018 The transaction has been a debacle and an embarrassment. Geoff Colvin, Fortune, "What the Hell Happened at GE?," 24 May 2018 The assault, generally called the Dieppe Raid, was an utter debacle. Matt Schudel, Washington Post, "Agnes-Marie Valois, French nun and ‘Angel of Dieppe’ in World War II, dies at 103," 21 Apr. 2018 The only real holdup in this entire divorce debacle has been financial. Ellie Delano, Woman's Day, "Well, I Made The Call To The Lawyer," 20 Aug. 2012 The urbanists blame the NIMBYs for this debacle, and vice versa. Danny Westneat, The Seattle Times, "Political trouble was ‘baked into the cake’ of Seattle’s sweeping upzoning plan," 5 Dec. 2018 In less than a day, Tay’s rhetoric went from family-friendly to foulmouthed; fewer than 24 hours after her debut, Microsoft took her offline and apologized for the public debacle. Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, "Unmasking A.I.'s Bias Problem," 25 June 2018 There are differing opinions on who should shoulder most of the blame for the qualifying debacle. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "Bruce Arena, Jurgen Klinsmann dispute impact of failure to qualify for World Cup," 18 Apr. 2018 Forbes walked into the locker room to find the box score from the night's debacle in the chair in front of his stall. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, "Spurs’ shooting woes resurface," 26 Jan. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'debacle.' 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 debacle

1802, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for debacle

French débâcle, from débâcler to clear, from Middle French desbacler, from des- de- + bacler to block, perhaps from Vulgar Latin *bacculare, from Latin baculum staff

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Dictionary Entries near debacle

deavely

deb

debabelization

debacle

debag

debar

debarbarize

Statistics for debacle

Last Updated

20 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for debacle

The first known use of debacle was in 1802

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More Definitions for debacle

debacle

noun

English Language Learners Definition of debacle

: a great disaster or complete failure

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More from Merriam-Webster on debacle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with debacle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for debacle

Spanish Central: Translation of debacle

Nglish: Translation of debacle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of debacle for Arabic Speakers

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