force majeure

noun

force ma·​jeure ˌfȯrs-mä-ˈzhər How to pronounce force majeure (audio)
-mə-
1
: superior or irresistible force
2
: an event or effect that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled compare act of god

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Force majeure translates literally from French as superior force. In English, the term is often used in line with its literal French meaning, but it has other uses as well, including one that has roots in a principle of French law. In business circles, "force majeure" describes those uncontrollable events (such as war, labor stoppages, or extreme weather) that are not the fault of any party and that make it difficult or impossible to carry out normal business. A company may insert a force majeure clause into a contract to absolve itself from liability in the event it cannot fulfill the terms of a contract (or if attempting to do so will result in loss or damage of goods) for reasons beyond its control.

Examples of force majeure in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Headwinds have always blown around in business English, but the phrase economic headwinds serves a special purpose: a majestic waving of the hand, an abandon to the fates, an inkling of force majeure. Sam Dean, Los Angeles Times, 13 Mar. 2024 For a world looking for an economic force majeure, and leadership from the business community with which to address the challenges of sustainability, both environmental and social, the global family business community is providing both leadership and economic influence. London Business School, Forbes, 28 Feb. 2024 For Morton, the Mongol invasions were a localized force majeure. Manvir Singh, The New Yorker, 25 Dec. 2023 Contractual force majeure is rarely invoked and enforced to allow the nonperformance of contracts that have become either impossible or impracticable due to some catastrophic event, including natural disasters and wars. Alexander Talel, WSJ, 22 Oct. 2023 This was another instance of force majeure, where unpredictability played a pivotal role. Andrew Rosen, Forbes, 20 Apr. 2023 Various kinds of contracts often have a force majeure clause regarding events beyond the control of the parties. Jim Small, Fortune, 9 Oct. 2023 The studios were able to use the strike to cancel some deals and productions under force majeure rules. Stephen Humphries, The Christian Science Monitor, 25 Sep. 2023 Given the dual work stoppage that has essentially brought production to a halt, projects are expected to invoke the tax credit program’s force majeure provision, which pauses the 180-day start date requirement for principal photography. Winston Cho, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 Sep. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'force majeure.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

French, superior force

First Known Use

1883, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of force majeure was in 1883

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Dictionary Entries Near force majeure

Cite this Entry

“Force majeure.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/force%20majeure. Accessed 19 Jun. 2024.

Legal Definition

force majeure

noun
1
: superior or insuperable force
2
: an event (as war, labor strike, or extreme weather) or effect that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled : fortuitous event compare act of god, inevitable accident
Etymology

French, superior force

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