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 was drinking and mischief, and teenage debauchery, all taking place away from the watchful eyes of strict Asian parents. NBC News, "'Loveboat, Taipei' chronicles nostalgia of debaucherous Taiwainese summer camp," 31 Jan. 2020 Jack Nicholson endorses the pharmaceutical industry (2003) Case in point for why the Golden Globes have a reputation for glorifying Hollywood debauchery: Nicholson admitting to being high on Valium during his About Schmidt acceptance speech. Alex Heigl,, "14 of the Wildest, Most Memorable Golden Globe Awards Moments Ever," 30 Dec. 2019 The way both men gorge on food and drink, freely tossing both about as their debauchery reaches a climax, further fleshes out their cravenness. Howard Reich,, "Lyric Opera review: A ‘Don Giovanni’ for the #MeToo era — who is far more monster than charmer," 15 Nov. 2019 The god creates a dangerous dream world of debauchery, destruction and despair, in an epic Greek tragic manner. Christopher Arnott,, "Creative trio behind ‘Girls’ parties hearty with a wild Greek tragedy at Yale Rep," 3 Oct. 2019 After the musical performance concluded and the dancers fawned over John Waters, the crowd broke into after-party disco debauchery. Vogue, "John Waters Was in His Campy Element at Ballroom Marfa's Spring Celebration," 21 May 2019 Though that party came nearly two years before the inferno that killed 36 people during an electronic music concert, prosecutors cited the earlier rave as an example of how defendants used the space for debauchery. Megan Cassidy,, "Ghost Ship trial: Testimony wraps up with defendant contradicting officer," 16 July 2019 The hospitality industry, unfairly or not, bears a reputation for work-hard-play-hard debauchery, degeneracy, vice and fiscal irresponsibility by both its patrons and employees. Sameer Rao,, "How the owner of a Baltimore sushi restaurant became a World Series of Poker contender," 28 June 2019 Named after the town where BB King was born, Itta Bena is the perfect spot for a special dinner before a night of debauchery. Brittney Oliver, Essence, "Black City Guide: 72 Hours in Memphis," 9 Sep. 2019

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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Time Traveler for debauchery

Time Traveler

The first known use of debauchery was in 1642

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Statistics for debauchery

Last Updated

3 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Debauchery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

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