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.
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. 1948I 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 WebAfter 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.