de·​bauch·​ery di-ˈbȯ-chə-rē How to pronounce debauchery (audio)
plural debaucheries
: extreme indulgence in bodily pleasures and especially sexual pleasures : behavior involving sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. that is often considered immoral
… he was glad when others joined them, men and women; and they had more drink and spent the night in wild rioting and debauchery.Upton Sinclair
… Matthew had continued his debaucheries, having chartered a private plane for himself and a bunch of fringe celebrities to go to Corfu for a week of hard-core partying.Evgenia Peretz
archaic : seduction from virtue or duty

Did you know?

History and Use of Debauchery

Some people come to find debauchery through the Bible, in a manner of speaking.

In a number of modern versions the word may be found in Ephesians 5:18, as in The New International Version's translation: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit....” The Greek word that is translated here as debauchery may be interpreted in many different ways: the King James Version uses excess, whereas the American Standard Version uses riot.

Debauchery always involves behavior—especially sexual behavior or behavior involving alcohol or drugs—that some find morally objectionable. In biblical and spiritual contexts, the word debauchery is deadly serious, but in other situations the word often has a playful connotation, as when a group of friends goes out for a "night of debauchery."

Debauchery began to be used in English in the beginning of the 17th century, and is formed from the earlier word debauch. As a verb debauch initially had the meaning of "to lead astray," especially when referring to leading someone away from another person to whom he or she has an allegiance or duty. In its earliest use as a noun debauch was often used to refer to an instance of eating or drinking too much.

Examples of debauchery in a Sentence

Like St. Augustine carousing his student days away in fourth-century Carthage, [Thomas] Merton had succumbed to such physical and intellectual debaucheries as New York offered a Columbia undergraduate in the 1930's: wine, women and some Communist fellow-traveling. Mark Silk, New York Times Book Review, 30 Mar. 1986
… they regard all music and everything pleasant as forms of debauchery, and will not confess to any knowledge or practice unless you can convince them that you are as abandoned a profligate as themselves. Bernard Shaw, letter, 25 Nov. 1948
I have seen a dozen boys stretched on the grass within a circumference of fifty feet, all of them smoking cigarettes and reading dime novels. It was a scene of inspiring debauchery, even to the most craven spectator. H. L. Mencken, Happy Days, 1940
He later regretted the debauchery of his youth. He recalled the evening's debaucheries with regret.
Recent Examples on the Web The number is led by the Emcee, the metaphorical character who lures audiences into the Kit Kat Klub’s bewitching debauchery while alerting them to the looming catastrophe. Martha Ross, The Mercury News, 7 June 2024 The glittering allure of Saint Laurent's designs were heightened by his aura as a public figure; he was noted for his entourage of cosmopolitan muses and friends, and his affinity for partying, decadence and debauchery. Cady Lang, TIME, 7 June 2024 Boyce started to hang out with Tyler’s crew, people like Jasper Dolphin and Travis Bennett, who, like Tyler, reveled in juvenile debauchery and havoc wreaking — an early-’90s-baby take on Jackass except with Black teenagers from the West Coast. Lawrence Burney, Vulture, 5 June 2024 Baño María artfully traverses themes of love, heartbreak, audacity, late-night revelry and societal ironies, creating a bold exploration of youthful debauchery. Jessica Roiz, Billboard, 19 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for debauchery 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'debauchery.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


debauch entry 1 + -ery

First Known Use

1642, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of debauchery was in 1642

Dictionary Entries Near debauchery

Cite this Entry

“Debauchery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


de·​bauch·​ery di-ˈbȯch-(ə-)rē How to pronounce debauchery (audio)
plural debaucheries
: extreme and unreasonable involvement in physical pleasures

More from Merriam-Webster on debauchery

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!