debauchery

noun
de·​bauch·​ery | \di-ˈbȯ-chə-rē, -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

Peter Charming threw parties — epic evenings of ‘70s-style decadence and debauchery. Alexis Burling, SFChronicle.com, "‘I Will Be Complete,’ by Glen David Gold," 21 June 2018 Bangkok, Southeast Asia’s pearl of spice and debauchery. Vincent Crampton, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Explore Florida's Sarasota County: Say bye bye, Ohio for pie pie, Pinecraft," 6 May 2018 September 9 through early October will be full of intimate moments as Venus in Scorpio will then join Jupiter for some decadent debauchery. Rebecca Gordon, Harper's BAZAAR, "How to Find Summer Romance According to the Stars," 21 June 2018 Summoned to court in the middle of the night by the king’s messenger with news that rebel factions are joining forces, Hal rehearses for the meeting with his surrogate father, Falstaff, his mentor in debauchery and mordant repartee. Charles Mcnulty, latimes.com, "Tom Hanks, Hamish Linklater and a 'Henry IV' worthy of applause," 10 June 2018 The artist, best known for his fantastical depictions of debauchery and comedic contoured caricatures of subjects both real and imaginary, explains that the current unstable environment lends artists a creative advantage. Dorian May, A-LIST, "Portrait of an Artist: George Condo," 5 July 2018 And the move to ban outside alcohol has also been credited with taming the debauchery of the infield, as the jockey club has since emphasized music over bacchanalia. Christina Tkacik, baltimoresun.com, "Preakness 2018 attendees face stricter regulations on outside food, drink," 18 May 2018 Following the debaucheries of the male Hanoverians, the court of the 18-year-old maiden was hailed as a model of propriety. Elizabeth Lowry, WSJ, "‘Victorians Undone’ Review: Bodies in Question," 4 May 2018 With names like Love Ranch and Chicken Ranch, brothels have been legal or tolerated in much of Nevada for over a century and are as much a part of the Silver State’s image of sin and debauchery as gaming and bachelor parties. Jim Carlton, WSJ, "Is the Party Over for Nevada’s Legal Brothels? Possibility of a Ban Looms," 16 June 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near debauchery

debating team

debauch

debauchee

debauchery

debauchment

debby

debeak

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Time Traveler for debauchery

The first known use of debauchery was in 1642

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