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 \ dē-​ˈbä-​kəl How to pronounce débâcle (audio) , di-​ , -​ˈba-​ How to pronounce débâcle (audio) ; also  dā-​ˈbäk(lᵊ) , -​ˈbä-​kəl , 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

And all of those scandals are in addition to the Cambridge Analytica debacle. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Report: Facebook let major tech firms access private messages, friends lists," 18 Dec. 2018 To most of us, the Fyre Festival, a high-profile debacle in the Bahamas in the spring of 2017, crystallized something about Internet culture. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, "Netflix’s Fyre Is a Story You Have to See to Believe," 15 Jan. 2019 Woodroofe is right that the Gatwick drone debacle will have wide-reaching implications. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "We Still Have No Idea How to Deal With Drones," 21 Dec. 2018 Just like the recent debacle with Victoria’s Secret, change will not stem from within the fashion house. Gianluca Russo, Teen Vogue, "Dolce & Gabbana's 'Chinese Chopsticks' Ad Isn't the Only Reason We Should Stop Supporting Them," 21 Nov. 2018 So much so, that the debacle even became fodder for university business courses. Shelia Poole, ajc, "This Day in History: Coca-Cola Co. launches New Coke," 23 Apr. 2018 The Cambridge Analytica debacle has created a firestorm for Facebook. Kurt Wagner, Recode, "Facebook says Cambridge Analytica may have had data from as many as 87 million people," 4 Apr. 2018 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

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

23 Apr 2019

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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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