debacle

noun
de·​ba·​cle | \ dē-ˈbä-kəl How to pronounce debacle (audio) , di-, -ˈba- How to pronounce debacle (audio) ; nonstandard ˈde-bə-kəl How to pronounce debacle (audio) \
variants: or less commonly débâcle \ dē-​ˈbä-​kəl How to pronounce debacle (audio) , di-​ , -​ˈba-​ How to pronounce debacle (audio) ; also  dā-​ˈbäk(lᵊ) , -​ˈbä-​kəl , How to pronounce debacle (audio) \

Definition of debacle

1a : a great disaster
b : a complete failure : fiasco
2 : a tumultuous breakup of ice in a river
3 : a violent disruption (as of an army) : rout

The Origin of Debacle Is French

Debacle comes from the French noun débâcle, which comes from the verb débâcler, meaning "to clear," "to unbolt," or "to unbar." That verb is from Middle French desbacler, which joined the prefix des- (equivalent to our de-, meaning "to do the opposite of") with the verb "bacler" ("to block"). In its original uses, "debacle" meant a breaking up of ice, or the rush of ice or water that follows such an occurrence. Eventually, "debacle" was used also to mean "a violent, destructive flood." Naturally, such uses led to meanings such as "a breaking up," "collapse," and finally "disaster" or "fiasco."

Examples of debacle in a Sentence

What a debacle. Next thing he knew, one of the patients would turn up dead. — T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Road to Wellville, 1993 So what had been intended as an orderly hearing ended in a general debacle, for as soon as Fray Domingo saw his protector dragged toward the exit door, he leaped at the guards and began pummeling them. — James A. Michener, Texas, 1985 Savings themselves evaporate in the course of such a debacle and thus the very wherewithal for reversing and retrieving the situation is lost … — Jane Jacobs, Cities and the Wealth of Nations, 1984 After the debacle of his first novel, he had trouble getting a publisher for his next book. the financial debacle that was the stock market crash of 1929
Recent Examples on the Web Altidore and his former Toronto FC teammate Michael Bradley became the face of the that debacle as the most consistently appearing players over the 2018 cycle. Ian Nicholas Quillen, Forbes, 31 July 2022 After that debacle, the polling industry vowed not to get fooled again. Wired, 16 July 2022 On top of that debacle, the Chinese economy has slowed, bogged down by President Xi Jinping’s zero-COVID policy. Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, 6 July 2022 Criticism about the Jackson water debacle is not strictly partisan. U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat whose district includes most of Jackson, said in mid-August that Jackson leaders had not provided specific proposals for improvements. Emily Wagster Pettus, Anchorage Daily News, 2 Sep. 2022 Criticism about the Jackson water debacle is not strictly partisan. U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat whose district includes most of Jackson, said in mid-August that Jackson leaders had not provided specific proposals for improvements. Emily Wagster Pettus, ajc, 1 Sep. 2022 This week, then, is perhaps a good time to posthumously recognize Eunice Foote for her contributions to science and predictions about our current greenhouse gas debacle. Joan Meiners, The Arizona Republic, 9 Mar. 2022 In Russia, too, state media overflowed with schadenfreude, albeit tempered by concern about the Afghan debacle’s spillover into its fragile Central Asian allies. Jeremy Page, WSJ, 31 Aug. 2021 Can Mater Dei move on from last season’s off-the-field debacle? Eric Sondheimer, Los Angeles Times, 17 Aug. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of debacle

1802, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for debacle

French débâcle, from débâcler to clear, from Middle French desbacler, from des- de- + bacler to block, perhaps from Vulgar Latin *bacculare, from Latin baculum staff

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Last Updated

20 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Debacle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/debacle. Accessed 1 Oct. 2022.

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