hav·​oc | \ ˈha-vək How to pronounce havoc (audio) , -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

Noun 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 Befriended by two artsy outcasts, the three hatch a plot for Cady to infiltrate the popular girls’ clique and wreak havoc on the high school social order. cleveland, "National tour of ‘Mean Girls’ at Playhouse Square is entertaining, but it’s not quite ‘fetch’," 6 Dec. 2019 While the events fill rivers and creeks and help maintain water supplies, atmospheric rivers also can wreak havoc on homes and communities, primarily from flooding. Kurtis Alexander, SFChronicle.com, "Big atmospheric rivers do a lot of damage — especially in Northern California," 4 Dec. 2019 More importantly, allowing such suits to go forward will wreak havoc on the national toxic waste cleanup scheme. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "ARCO is taking a fight over toxic-waste cleanup to the US Supreme Court," 30 Nov. 2019 Sunday’s storm comes on the heels of a large storm that buried Colorado and Wyoming in 3 feet of snow and moved into the Midwest just before Thanksgiving, wreaking havoc on Thanksgiving travel plans. David Owens, courant.com, "Heavy snow coming, 8 to 12 inches forecast in northwest hills, 4-9 inches near Hartford, less at the shore," 29 Nov. 2019 Deerfield Beach’s swarming defense wreaked havoc on the Vero Beach offense throughout the game with defensive lineman Kervins Choute leading the charge with two sacks. Brett Shweky, sun-sentinel.com, "Deerfield Beach downs Vero Beach to reach state semifinals for second consecutive season," 22 Nov. 2019 If all the stars align, norovirus could really wreak havoc on a community. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Brutal stomach bug erupts in Colorado, closing down an entire school district," 22 Nov. 2019 If all the stars align, norovirus could really wreak havoc on a community. Leah Groth, Health.com, "Suspected Norovirus Outbreak in Colorado Closes 46 Schools—Here's What You Should Know About the Illness," 22 Nov. 2019 But scientists say climate change is wreaking havoc on many other species -- including birds and reptiles -- that are sensitive to fluctuations in temperatures. Katie Hunt, CNN, "Vanishing ice puts Mongolia's reindeer herders at risk," 20 Nov. 2019 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

Noun and Verb

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

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Learn More about havoc

Time Traveler for havoc

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for havoc

Last Updated

10 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Havoc.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/havoc?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=h&file=havoc001. Accessed 14 December 2019.

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More Definitions for havoc


How to pronounce havoc (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of havoc

: a situation in which there is much destruction or confusion


hav·​oc | \ ˈha-vək How to pronounce havoc (audio) \

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

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to assail by words or arguments

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