force majeure


force ma·​jeure ˌfȯrs-mä-ˈzhər How to pronounce force majeure (audio)
: superior or irresistible force
: 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.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Mysterious explosions would allow Russia to blame the leaks on force majeure, in order to to wriggle out of looming multi-billion-dollar legal claims by European utilities that feel ripped off by the NS1 shutdowns. Tim Mcdonnell, Quartz, 2 Oct. 2022 This is the third straight year in which the government in Berlin has declared a kind of force majeure that prevents it from meeting budgetary targets anchored in Germany’s constitution. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 30 Sep. 2022 Alexei Ryazantsev, general director of distributor Karo Premier, which until recently distributed Warner Bros. fare in Russia, suggested the moves to legalize screenings under force majeure would enable Russian theaters to screen Hollywood movies. Nick Holdsworth, Variety, 6 June 2022 Two German utilities, Uniper and RWE, were among the companies that received Gazprom’s force majeure letter. Will Daniel, Fortune, 21 July 2022 Gazprom slashed gas deliveries through Nord Stream 1 to 40 percent of its capacity on June 14, the date the company later indicated as the start of the force majeure. Claire Parker, Washington Post, 19 July 2022 The Rules of the Eurovision Song Contest, that all participating broadcasters agree upon, clearly state that the event can be moved in a force majeure situation such as an ongoing war. K.j. Yossman, Variety, 23 June 2022 Approximately 600 multinational companies have departed Russia and slammed the door behind them, hardly glancing at their force majeure and material adverse change clauses on their way out. Alexandra Wrage, Forbes, 5 May 2022 In Germany, a force majeure is in place across distribution and storage assets owned by Mabanaft Group, within which the Oiltanking Deutschland operates. Rachel Graham,, 4 Feb. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'force majeure.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


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


Dictionary Entries Near force majeure

Cite this Entry

“Force majeure.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Legal Definition

force majeure


: superior or insuperable force
: 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

History and Etymology for force majeure

French, superior force

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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