debauchery

noun
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 Much of the blame for the crackdown has fallen on the weekend revelers who gathered on Bourbon Street, the city’s iconic hub of shoulder-to-shoulder partying and debauchery. New York Times, "Can New Orleans Celebrate Mardi Gras Without Reckless Abandon?," 14 Feb. 2021 With that came a rise in crime, but also general debauchery like drinking and gambling. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "Bridgerton: The Real-Life Lady Whistledowns of Regency-Era England," 25 Dec. 2020 The area is very secluded and bulls like to go to the meadow for a big drink and a refreshing splash in the wallow during midday, while their harem is sleeping off a night of debauchery. Outdoor Life, "7 Rules You Must Follow to Punch Your Big-Game Tag on Public Land," 10 Dec. 2020 Some of the caricatures draw a coarse equation of Islam with violence or debauchery through Muhammad’s image, a pervasive theme in the colonial European scholarship on Muhammad. Suleyman Dost, The Conversation, "Muslims have visualized Prophet Muhammad in words and calligraphic art for centuries," 24 Nov. 2020 In the United States, higher education offers a fantasy for how kids should grow up: by competing for admission to a rarefied place, which erects a safe cocoon that facilitates debauchery and self-discovery, out of which an adult emerges. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, "America Will Sacrifice Anything for the College Experience," 20 Oct. 2020 Mark your calendars for the last round of Gallagher debauchery. Derek Lawrence, EW.com, "Showtime reveals Shameless final season premiere date," 13 Oct. 2020 While Roth presided over bacchanalia in the wings, Mr. Van Halen preferred a more private kind of debauchery, retiring alone to his hotel room to snort cocaine, drink vodka and write songs on his guitar. Washington Post, "Eddie Van Halen, guitar virtuoso with a shimmering sound, dies at 65," 6 Oct. 2020 Previously, the epicenter of debauchery in New Orleans had been a few blocks south, in the now-notorious red-light district known as Storyville. Mike Scott, NOLA.com, "How a 1920s Bourbon Street nightclub called Maxime forever transformed the French Quarter," 15 Sep. 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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Time Traveler for debauchery

Time Traveler

The first known use of debauchery was in 1642

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Statistics for debauchery

Last Updated

27 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Debauchery.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/debauchery. Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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