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

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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.
Recent Examples on the Web After the drunken debauchery associated with Back to Mono, there was little doubt that Strange Pussies would be no easy feat. Jordan Runtagh, Peoplemag, 31 Oct. 2023 Yoko had kicked John out of the Dakota, their fortress-like apartment building on Central Park West, after his drinking and public debauchery grew out of control. Jordan Runtagh, Peoplemag, 31 Oct. 2023 Villegas’ case resurfaced earlier this year in a court filing from a former LAPD commander who is suing the department, alleging the existence of a culture of debauchery and favoritism that dates back years and reaches into the LAPD’s upper echelons. Libor Jany, Los Angeles Times, 5 Oct. 2023 The single follows a girl on a motorcycle with no license, but that doesn’t stop her from crossing international borders to hit up the clubs for a night of debauchery. Isabela Raygoza, Billboard, 8 Sep. 2023 What started as a social justice movement quickly evolved into debauchery. Daniel Scheffler, Spin, 28 Aug. 2023 The Marquis de Sade, one of the most infamous names in all of writing, was an 18th century French aristocrat, a man known for debauchery and evading authorities, breaking out of prison and eluding his own public execution in 1772. WIRED, 21 Feb. 2023 As a Tibetan nun from a neighboring monastery blessed the space, and the inky night came to a close, the scene was reminiscent of a Merry Prankster Acid Test minus the frenzied debauchery. Cassady Rosenblum, Rolling Stone, 29 June 2023 Mehringer’s motion, which has been the talk of the department for weeks, asserts a culture of debauchery and favoritism that dates back years and reaches into the LAPD’s upper echelons. Libor Jany, Los Angeles Times, 9 Aug. 2023 See More

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 29 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


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

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