force majeure

force ma·​jeure | \ˌfȯrs-mä-ˈzhər, -mə-\

Definition of force majeure 

1 : superior or irresistible force

2 : an event or effect that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled — compare act of god

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

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

Shell declared force majeure on Bonny Light crude shipments last month following pipeline leaks, while loadings of Forcados exports were also delayed. Elisha Bala-gbogbo,, "Shell Says Nigeria Attacks Recur Even as Oil Output Recovers," 5 June 2018 Evacuation insurance in case of injury or force majeure is a smart precaution. Adam Popescu,, "What to Know Before You Go Tracking Snow Leopards at 13,000 Feet," 1 May 2018 Finally, a pipeline issue in Nigeria forced Shell’s local subsidiary on Wednesday to declare force majeure—a clause that allows contractual shipments to be suspended—on 250,000 barrels a day of production. Spencer Jakab, WSJ, "Small Outages Have Big Impact on Oil Prices," 21 May 2018 Exporters have started to declare force majeure on soybean cargoes. Fabiana Batista,, "Brazil Working Around Strike But Fuel, Food Is Still Scarce," 26 May 2018 But with 0-100 mph acceleration in 8.8 seconds and a top speed, top-down, of 187 mph, the V8-powered Volante has plenty of force majeure, Major. Dan Neil, WSJ, "2019 Aston Martin DB11 Volante: A Six-Figure Car That’s Worth Every Penny," 26 Apr. 2018 An insider told The Hollywood Reporter that the crew received force majeure letters on Friday. Emma Stefansky, HWD, "Fox Halts Production on Queen Biopic Bohemian Rhapsody Due to Bryan Singer’s “Health Matter”," 2 Dec. 2017 The outage, which gave a boost to prices, was the first time a force majeure had been declared in the North Sea since 1988. Bloomberg News,, "Oil's bull run wavers as investors wait to see what 2018 holds," 26 Dec. 2017 Instead of paying up, the New York real estate mogul countersued, claiming the 2008 crash was a force majeure event—one that Deutsche had helped precipitate. Luke Harding, Newsweek, "Is Donald Trump’s Dark Russian Secret Hiding in Deutsche Bank’s Vaults?," 21 Dec. 2017

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.

See More

First Known Use of force majeure

1883, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for force majeure

French, superior force

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about force majeure

Share force majeure

Listen to Our Podcast about force majeure

Dictionary Entries near force majeure


force land

force main

force majeure




Statistics for force majeure

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for force majeure

The first known use of force majeure was in 1883

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for force majeure

force majeure

force ma·​jeure | \ˈfȯrs-ma-ˈzhər, -mȧ-ˈzhœ̅r \

Legal Definition of force majeure 

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

History and Etymology for force majeure

French, superior force

More from Merriam-Webster on force majeure

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with force majeure

Comments on force majeure

What made you want to look up force majeure? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!