dis·​tur·​bance | \ di-ˈstər-bən(t)s How to pronounce disturbance (audio) \
plural disturbances

Definition of disturbance

1 : the act of disturbing someone or something : the state of being disturbed: such as
a : an interruption of a state of peace, quiet, or calm His choler rose in proportion to the surprise, and, perhaps, to the disturbance of his repose.— Sir Walter Scott … a caller reported loud music causing a disturbanceSaugus (Massachusetts) Advertiser They were charged with disturbance of the peace.
b(1) : an interference with or alteration in a planned, ordered, or usual procedure, state, or habit He was still suffering from this sudden disturbance of the quiet routine of his life.— Arthur Conan Doyle Impacts inflicted by mining … include … disturbance of wildlife habitat …— Todd Wilkinson
(2) : a moving out of place Bruce was particular about his things and would notice any slight disturbance to his stuff …— Tegan Quin These latter circumstances … may, I think, be accounted for, by the disturbance of the mud at the bottom of the sea …— Charles Darwin
c : a departure from a norm or standard : a deviation, disruption, or impairment in form, function, or activity sleep disturbances endocrine disturbances Once identified as having an emotional disturbance with associated behavior problems, it's considered best practice for the child to get a behavior intervention plan …— Patrick Skahil and David Desroches Identifying coronavirus' economic effects combined with other major economic disturbances requires accurate data …— Bruce Yandle
2 : noisy or violent activity : commotion Police responding to complaints of a loud disturbance in a parking lot … found 15 to 20 teenagers gathered …— R. Robin McDonald
3 : a local variation from the average or normal wind conditions

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Examples of disturbance in a Sentence

She doesn't want any more disturbances while she is studying. He reacts badly to disturbance of his daily routine. Fish are able to detect even slight disturbances in the water. Disturbance of the river's sediment causes cloudy water. Neighbors called the police to report a disturbance. They were arrested for creating a disturbance. The violence that soldiers experience in war can lead to emotional disturbance in later years.
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Recent Examples on the Web Police believe a domestic disturbance between Henderson and Smith led to the fatal shooting. Kelli Smith, Dallas News, "28-year-old woman found dead with gunshot wound in far northeast Dallas, police say," 10 May 2021 Police did not have any specific information about the domestic disturbance. Lynn Kutter, Arkansas Online, "Prairie Grove officer shot three times, remains in ICU," 5 May 2021 It is not known if the stabbings occurred during a domestic disturbance, Evans said. BostonGlobe.com, "Two women fatally stabbed in Dorchester," 2 May 2021 Authorities said a person inside the apartment in the Lex and Leo at Waterfront Station called police shortly before 9 p.m. to report a domestic disturbance. Washington Post, "Man fatally shot by D.C. police pointed gun at officer, woman, authorities say," 1 May 2021 The next morning, a man identified as J.H. was arrested following a domestic disturbance. Christine Fernando, USA TODAY, "Georgia sheriff indicted on federal civil rights violations for 'unreasonable' use of restraint chair," 29 Apr. 2021 The three had been involved in a domestic disturbance a few blocks away, and a tipster named Johnny Ray Kelly claimed to have seen the men in the area that Friday night. Breeanna Hare, CNN, "Inside the case that bankrupt the Klan," 10 Apr. 2021 Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran who was responding to a call about a domestic disturbance, allegedly shot him at least seven times in the back. Jake Dima, Washington Examiner, "Kenosha police charge 55 more people in wake of riots," 26 Mar. 2021 Steve Saunders said officers were called to the Quality Inn and Suites around 10:30 a.m. for a report of a domestic disturbance. Cameron Knight, The Enquirer, "2-year-old hospitalized, man arrested after SWAT situation," 19 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'disturbance.' 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 disturbance

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for disturbance

Time Traveler

The first known use of disturbance was in the 13th century

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Statistics for disturbance

Last Updated

12 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Disturbance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disturbance. Accessed 17 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for disturbance



English Language Learners Definition of disturbance

: something that stops you from working, sleeping, etc. : the act of disturbing someone or something
: a change in the position, arrangement, or order of something
: violent or noisy behavior especially in public


dis·​tur·​bance | \ di-ˈstər-bəns How to pronounce disturbance (audio) \

Kids Definition of disturbance

1 : the act of interrupting, changing the arrangement of, or upsetting : the state of being interrupted, changed in arrangement, or upset Fish can feel any disturbances in the water.
2 : disorder entry 2 sense 2, commotion I reported a disturbance to the police.


dis·​tur·​bance | \ dis-ˈtər-bən(t)s How to pronounce disturbance (audio) \

Medical Definition of disturbance

: a deviation, disruption, or impairment in form, function, or activity visual disturbances disturbances of metabolism Emotional disturbance is one of the 13 disabilities schools use to identify students who may receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, the federal special education law.— Howard Weiss-Tisman, Brattleboro (Vermont) Reformer

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Legal Definition of disturbance

: an interruption of peace or order specifically : an interruption of the quiet enjoyment of one's property

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