de·​bauch·​ery | \ di-ˈbȯ-chə-rē How to pronounce debauchery (audio) , -chrē, -ˈbä- \
plural debaucheries

Definition of debauchery

1 : 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
2 archaic : seduction from virtue or duty

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web There would be little of the topless, trombone-playing debauchery of the usual march, this year. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "A Dream of Lasting Solidarity at the Dyke March," 24 June 2020 In a season 1 episode, the crew hits up fave spot Karma and get down to drinking, dancing, and general debauchery. Derek Lawrence,, "The party's leaving: Snooki's snookiest Jersey Shore moments," 18 June 2020 More than the debauchery, the concern was all the trash and other waste the event generates. Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press, "Jobbie Nooner still on despite coronavirus concerns, boaters urged to social distance," 10 June 2020 From the same brains that brought us Money Heist (Alex Pina), comes White Lines, a Netflix murder mystery series set in Ibiza fueled by cocaine, debauchery, and family drama. Gina Vaynshteyn,, "Who’s Who In Netflix’s Outrageous White Lines," 22 May 2020 But there’s a way to have a bachelorette party in Nashville that doesn’t entail any debauchery and instead embraces the many amenities the city has to offer. al, "How to plan the perfect Nashville bachelorette party," 24 Feb. 2020 But even with this Dr. Seuss book of debauchery that exists within our collective consciousness, of course — of course — our ladies would draw the line of acceptable behavior at having a few tattoos. Jodi Walker,, "The Real Housewives of New York City recap: A stamp of approval," 10 Apr. 2020 No to the debauchery of the public mind, No to personal malice nursed and fed . . Kevin Baker, Harper's Magazine, "Losing My Religion," 30 Mar. 2020 His last full-length of new material, 2016’s Teens of Denial, was about being trapped in a cycle of depressed stasis, nihilistic slackerism, and routine debauchery. Eli Enis,, "Car Seat Headrest's strange new world," 29 Apr. 2020

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

1642, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for debauchery

see debauch entry 1

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Learn More about debauchery

Time Traveler for debauchery

Time Traveler

The first known use of debauchery was in 1642

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Statistics for debauchery

Last Updated

8 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Debauchery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

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