disaster

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

Definition of disaster

1 : 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.
2 obsolete, occult : an unfavorable aspect (see aspect sense 2a) of a planet or star

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

The nuclear disaster at Chernobyl and the fire at the UMG vault were very different events with different levels of traumatic consequence. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Exposé Entertainment Is the Surprise Hit of the Summer," 13 June 2019 For example, VOST Portugal, a communication organization in Portugal for natural disasters and other community crises, alerts Cloudflare when an incident occurs that may trigger a spike in legitimate traffic to its site. Lily Hay Newman, WIRED, "Cloudflare’s Five-Year Project to Protect Nonprofits Online," 12 June 2019 These disasters would be catastrophic at the best of times. Beth Ford, Fortune, "Land O’Lakes CEO: Farmers Are in Crisis—and America Isn’t Paying Attention," 11 June 2019 The night is a disaster: Jade endures the horrified stares of men who once would have made a pass and Shami has started dating Naz, with whom Jade shared a flirtation before the attack. K.s.c., The Economist, "In “Dirty God”, a woman navigates life in the wake of a brutal attack," 11 June 2019 That’s the pattern after most natural disasters, says Nick Liberati of EnergySage, an online marketplace where people buy and sell home solar panels and batteries. Michael J. Coren, Quartz, "California’s wildfires may be the best thing to happen to home batteries," 7 June 2019 To any other nation the disaster would have been almost decisive. David Von Drehle, Twin Cities, "David Von Drehle: Everyone acts like America is in decline. Let’s look at the numbers.," 6 June 2019 To any other nation the disaster would have been almost decisive. David Von Drehle, The Denver Post, "Guest Commentary: United States lifted the world without losing ground," 5 June 2019 Tip 5: Buy a Suede Brush If disaster does strike (aka stains, dirt, water or all of the above make it onto your precious kicks), use a suede brush to fix the problem areas. Irene Hwang, Seventeen, "How to Clean Suede Shoes Like a Fashion Pro," 13 May 2019

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 2

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

17 Jun 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 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

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

to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
True or False

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!