hav·oc | \ˈha-vək, -vik\

Definition of havoc 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : wide and general destruction : devastation A tornado wreaked havoc on the town two years ago.

2 : great confusion and disorder the blackout caused havoc in the city


havocked; havocking

Definition of havoc (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to lay waste : destroy

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Examples of havoc in a Sentence


The disease can play havoc with the body's immune system. Several small children can create havoc in a house.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Autonomous cars — which don’t need to be parked near a person’s destination, since the vehicles can just drive themselves away after the riders get out — are about to wreak havoc on the status quo. Jack Flemming, latimes.com, "Uber and Lyft are forcing Southern California parking companies to adapt or die," 7 July 2018 When hot temperatures followed, the asphalt began to melt, wreaking havoc on drivers’ cars and tires. Jamie Ducharme, Time, "A Road in Australia 'Melted' and Destroyed Drivers' Tires," 5 July 2018 Reports of harmful algal blooms grow year after year, wreaking havoc on fishing and tourism seasons in Lake Erie, killing dogs and causing nausea and rashes for the unsuspecting swimmer. Emily Hopkins, Cincinnati.com, "Your produce is less healthy than it was 70 years ago. These farmers might change that," 4 July 2018 With 13 goals and 12 assists last season, the 29-year-old is certainly a strong presence in attack, and with blistering pace, Willian has the ability to wreak havoc on defences with ease. SI.com, "Chelsea Demand €80m for Wantaway Winger Willian Amid Reports of Barcelona Interest," 3 July 2018 Any stumbles in tech-stock prices could raise the risk of market contagion and wreak havoc on portfolios. Michael Wursthorn, WSJ, "Investors Double Down on Tech in Rocky Quarter for Stocks," 29 June 2018 Francis got with digital artist @harrychronicjunior and professional gamer @TSM_Myth to insert himself and Marco directly into the co-op survival game, copying the avatar's dance moves and otherwise wreaking havoc on the fantasy world. Kat Bein, Billboard, "Dillon Francis Dances in Fortnite Universe for 'Look at That Butt' Video: Watch," 29 June 2018 According to the Undefeated, almost 70 percent of the NFL players wreaking havoc on their bodies and brains to play the game are black. Otis R. Taylor Jr., SFChronicle.com, "Oakland journalist sees black culture shifting from music to sports," 25 June 2018 On the big screen, robots such as the Terminator are monsters, wreaking havoc on people and civilization. Hiawatha Bray, BostonGlobe.com, "Afraid of robots? The feeling is mutual," 20 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

So asking other states for help before Maria, which might have lined up resources for Puerto Rico more quickly, would have been an expensive undertaking without knowing for sure what havoc the storm would wreak. Patricia Mazzei And Omaya Sosa Pascual, miamiherald, "How a slow response hurt Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria | Miami Herald," 19 Oct. 2017

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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1575, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for havoc


Middle English havok, from Anglo-French, modification of Old French havot plunder


see havoc entry 1

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Dictionary Entries near havoc







Hawaii-Aleutian time

Phrases Related to havoc

wreak havoc

Statistics for havoc

Last Updated

17 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for havoc

The first known use of havoc was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for havoc



English Language Learners Definition of havoc

: a situation in which there is much destruction or confusion


hav·oc | \ˈha-vək \

Kids Definition of havoc

1 : wide destruction The storm wreaked havoc.

2 : great confusion and lack of order My young nephews caused havoc.

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More from Merriam-Webster on havoc

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for havoc

Spanish Central: Translation of havoc

Nglish: Translation of havoc for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of havoc for Arabic Speakers

Comments on havoc

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


evasion of direct action or statement

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