di·​sas·​ter | \ di-ˈza-stər How to pronounce disaster (audio) , -ˈsa- How to pronounce disaster (audio) \
plural disasters

Definition of disaster

1 : a sudden calamitous event bringing great damage, loss, or destruction natural disasters
2 : someone or something that is very bad: such as
a : someone or something that is extremely unsuccessful The wedding reception was a complete disaster. Brilliant at maths and languages, she was a disaster in physical education …— Derek Scally
b : someone or something that has a very bad effect or result The new coach was a disaster for the team. "… for the average person, when unemployment strikes, it is a disaster for them. …"— Peggy Nash The Battle of Fort Washington took place at the north end of Manhattan Island. It was an unmitigated disaster.— John F. Di Leo It can be tough to tell, though, whether an investment is solid or a financial disaster waiting to happen.— Katie Brockman … the police chief … warned colleagues of the potential for a deadly accident. And … the editor of a major … magazine said it was a recipe for disaster.— Patrick Kingsley These negative reviews aren't the end of the world, but they can spell disaster for your business unless you know how to properly respond.— Amine Rahal
c : someone who is in a very agitated emotional state : wreck "… I cried like a baby and kind of had a breakdown. I really just lost it. The weekend after we wrapped, I was a disaster. …"— Alex Borstein
d : someone or something that is in a very disordered state or condition : mess The house is a complete disaster. I got caught in the rain and showed up looking like a disaster.
3 obsolete, occult : an unfavorable aspect (see aspect sense 2a) of a planet or star

Did you know?

Disaster has its roots in the belief that the positions of stars influence the fate of humans, often in destructive ways; its original meaning in English was "an unfavorable aspect of a planet or star." The word comes to us through Middle French and the Old Italian word disastro, from the Latin prefix dis- and Latin astro, meaning "star." Another unfortunate word that comes to us from astrological beliefs is "ill-starred." Now generally used in the sense of "unlucky" or "having or destined to a hapless fate," "ill-starred" was originally used literally to describe someone born under or guided by an evil star. We also have star-crossed, meaning "not favored by the stars" or "ill-fated."

Examples of disaster in a Sentence

The program examined several bridge failures and other engineering disasters. The new regulations could be a disaster for smaller businesses. They're trying to find a way to avoid disaster. The dinner party was a complete disaster.
Recent Examples on the Web Hochul declared a state disaster emergency that allows EMS workers, midwives and pharmacists to administer polio vaccines and allows doctors to issue standing orders for the vaccine. Michael Hill, USA TODAY, 10 Sep. 2022 Hochul declared a state disaster emergency that allows EMS workers, midwives and pharmacists to administer polio vaccines and allows doctors to issue standing orders for the vaccine. CBS News, 9 Sep. 2022 July 29, 2022 - New York declares a state disaster emergency in response to the monkeypox outbreak. Cnn Editorial Research, CNN, 5 Sep. 2022 The remaining $45 million from the Eastern Kentucky SAFE fund would be directed to the highway fund of the Transportation Cabinet for reimbursement from their federal emergency disaster assistance. Joe Sonka, The Courier-Journal, 24 Aug. 2022 And within RescEU, the bloc’s disaster emergency response and civil protection resource pool, the EU has assembled a fleet of 12 firefighting airplanes and one helicopter for peak forest fire season. Dominique Soguel, The Christian Science Monitor, 11 Aug. 2022 On Sunday, the president amended an existing emergency declaration for Kentucky to free up additional disaster assistance. Bytal Axelrod, ABC News, 8 Aug. 2022 Over the weekend, the president amended the declaration, to make additional disaster assistance available to Kentucky to aid in debris removal and emergency protective measures. Chantal Da Silva, NBC News, 8 Aug. 2022 Biden has expanded federal disaster assistance to Kentucky, ensuring the federal government will cover the full cost of debris removal and other emergency measures. BostonGlobe.com, 8 Aug. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'disaster.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of disaster

1567, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for disaster

Middle French & Old Italian; Middle French desastre, from Old Italian disastro, from dis- (from Latin) + astro star, from Latin astrum — more at astral

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The first known use of disaster was in 1567

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disaster area

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Last Updated

23 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Disaster.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disaster. Accessed 25 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for disaster


di·​sas·​ter | \ diz-ˈas-tər How to pronounce disaster (audio) , dis- \

Kids Definition of disaster

: something (as a flood or a tornado) that happens suddenly and causes much suffering or loss

More from Merriam-Webster on disaster

Nglish: Translation of disaster for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of disaster for Arabic Speakers


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