disaster

noun
di·​sas·​ter | \ di-ˈzas-tər, -ˈsas- \

Definition of disaster

1 obsolete, occult : an unfavorable aspect (see aspect sense 2a) of a planet or star
2 : a sudden calamitous event bringing great damage, loss, or destruction natural disasters broadly : a sudden or great misfortune or failure The party was a disaster.

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

If disaster strikes in the form of rogue lipstick, use shaving cream to fix it. Seventeen.com Editors, Seventeen, "50 Life-Changing Prom Beauty Tips You Haven't Heard Before," 19 Dec. 2018 That's not what happened, leaving many people without sufficient warning for the natural disaster. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Indonesia's Tsunami Warning System Hasn't Been Operational Since 2012," 1 Oct. 2018 The government's Chief Secretary John Kijazi spoke to reporters after the country's president ordered the arrests of those responsible for the disaster. Fox News, "The Latest: Video shows rescued Tanzania ferry survivor," 22 Sep. 2018 There was also no formal disaster plan for the region, and cellular communications throughout Nepal were knocked out, leaving the survivors on-site to improvise a response. Alex Hutchinson, Outside Online, "The Devastating Aftermath of an Avalanche on Everest," 6 July 2018 Supporting women affected by the Grenfell Fire disaster, Meghan worked with the Hubb Community Kitchen in London to create the cookbook, and help people living in the area. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kate Middleton Twins with Meghan Markle in a Red Coat and Short Skirt at University College London," 21 Nov. 2018 Canberra also plans to establish a mobile defense-training team to help Pacific nations upgrade their militaries and improve peacekeeping and disaster-response capabilities. Rachel Pannett, WSJ, "U.S. Allies Vie With China to Make Pacific Island Friends," 8 Nov. 2018 The deal forbids fixed-wing aircraft with the exception of rescue missions and natural disaster response. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. Doesn’t Want a No-Fly Zone Over the Korean DMZ. Here’s Why.," 18 Oct. 2018 By contrast, Scott has praised AT&T for its disaster response. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "Ajit Pai slams carriers for slow restoration of cell service after hurricane," 16 Oct. 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about disaster

Listen to Our Podcast about disaster

Statistics for disaster

Last Updated

14 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for disaster

The first known use of disaster was in 1567

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for disaster

disaster

noun

English Language Learners Definition of disaster

: something (such as a flood, tornado, fire, plane crash, etc.) that happens suddenly and causes much suffering or loss to many people

: something that has a very bad effect or result

: a complete or terrible failure

disaster

noun
di·​sas·​ter | \ diz-ˈas-tər, dis-\

Kids Definition of disaster

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on disaster

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with disaster

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for disaster

Spanish Central: Translation of disaster

Nglish: Translation of disaster for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of disaster for Arabic Speakers

Comments on disaster

What made you want to look up disaster? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

means, resources, or money

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!