up·​heav·​al | \ ˌəp-ˈhē-vəl How to pronounce upheaval (audio) , (ˌ)ə-ˈpē- \

Definition of upheaval

1 : the action or an instance of upheaving especially of part of the earth's crust
2 : extreme agitation or disorder : radical change also : an instance of this

Examples of upheaval in a Sentence

The civil rights movement marked a period of social upheaval in the U.S. the emotional upheaval of divorce a period of cultural and social upheavals The island was created by an upheaval of the ocean floor. The lake was formed by geologic upheaval.
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Recent Examples on the Web Woodstock itself arrived at a time of great social upheaval in the United States, which was engulfed in an unpopular war in Vietnam that saw many thousands of young adults drafted and subsequently killed in Southeast Asia. Shirley Halperin, Variety, 8 Jan. 2022 His viewpoint includes a renunciation of the democratic steps taken in the 1990s, which included reforms, self-criticism and social and economic upheaval. New York Times, 28 Dec. 2021 The vulnerable in our society are the ones who tend to suffer the most from climate change and social upheaval, the ones least likely to escape the harsh privations of their position. Yussef Cole, Wired, 18 Dec. 2021 Not that these oversights were born of incompetence or malice but rather, and most likely, a result of his conscious shouldering of the enormous social upheaval his work would cause. Paul Cappiello, The Courier-Journal, 11 Dec. 2021 Earlier in last week, the CCAs were determined for the show to go on — with strict Covid protocols and everything — but their change of heart is understandable amid all the social upheaval. Lester Fabian Brathwaite, EW.com, 23 Dec. 2021 As a result of all the pandemic upheaval, education roles have seen a 20.8% year-over-year growth. Ashley Stahl, Forbes, 8 June 2021 Pandemic upheaval had distanced us from the life that was. Peg Rosen, The Christian Science Monitor, 17 May 2021 As the pandemic upheaval has continued, Sogefi has grown more involved in its suppliers’ affairs, including their sourcing decisions and hiring. Washington Post, 8 May 2021

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

1838, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of upheaval was in 1838

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Last Updated

18 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Upheaval.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/upheaval. Accessed 19 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for upheaval



English Language Learners Definition of upheaval

: a major change or period of change that causes a lot of conflict, confusion, anger, etc.
: an occurrence in which a part of the Earth's surface moves up forcefully


up·​heav·​al | \ ˌəp-ˈhē-vəl How to pronounce upheaval (audio) \

Kids Definition of upheaval

: a period of great change or violent disorder

More from Merriam-Webster on upheaval

Nglish: Translation of upheaval for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of upheaval for Arabic Speakers


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