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 In their statement, county police said the incident began after officers from the Woodlawn Precinct were called around 3 p.m. to the 1400 block of Adamsview Road for a report of a disturbance involving a firearm. Phillip Jackson, baltimoresun.com, "Baltimore County Police say officers shot a man believed to be armed with a gun, but provide few other details," 18 Mar. 2021 Kenosha was in the throes of several nights of chaotic protests after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, who is Black, in the back during a domestic disturbance. NBC News, "Kyle Rittenhouse's murder trial delayed at least 7 months," 10 Mar. 2021 Kenosha was in the throes of several nights of chaotic protests after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, who is Black, in the back during a domestic disturbance. Scott Bauer, Star Tribune, "Wisconsin protest shootings trial delayed at least 7 months," 10 Mar. 2021 During the disturbance, Marbley pulled out a black semi-automatic pistol and began to point it at Clay, according to the news release. Ashton Eley, Arkansas Online, "Police make arrest in killing at North Little Rock pizzeria," 8 Mar. 2021 Officers responded to a call of a disturbance on the 6500 block of Lincoln Avenue on Feb. 24 and learned a car window was shattered during a fight, police said. Pioneer Press Staff, chicagotribune.com, "Lincolnwood police: Three businesses targeted by burglars in one night," 7 Mar. 2021 Police responded to reports of a disturbance onboard a Valley Transportation Authority bus on Scott Boulevard at Space Park Drive around 7:48 a.m., the sheriff’s office said. Nora Mishanec, San Francisco Chronicle, "Santa Clara man accused of stealing public bus with passenger onboard after struggle with driver," 2 Mar. 2021 Portman noted that many Capitol Police officers didn’t have riot gear during the disturbance, while the Washington, D.C. police had helmets, shields, gloves and gas masks. Sabrina Eaton, cleveland, "Capitol Hill police blame intelligence failures for Jan. 6 riot breaches, Sen. Rob Portman cites training failures," 23 Feb. 2021 The demonstrations began after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, who is Black, in the back during a domestic disturbance, leaving him paralzyed from the waist down. Todd Richmond, ajc, "Wisconsin prosecutors seek Rittenhouse arrest, higher bond," 3 Feb. 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

18 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Disturbance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disturbance. Accessed 21 Apr. 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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Comments on disturbance

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