dis·​tur·​bance di-ˈstər-bən(t)s How to pronounce disturbance (audio)
plural disturbances
: the act of disturbing someone or something : the state of being disturbed: such as
: an interruption of a state of peace, quiet, or calm
His choler rose in proportion to the surprise, and, perhaps, to the disturbance of his repose.Sir Walter Scott
… a caller reported loud music causing a disturbanceSaugus (Massachusetts) Advertiser
They were charged with disturbance of the peace.
: an interference with or alteration in a planned, ordered, or usual procedure, state, or habit
He was still suffering from this sudden disturbance of the quiet routine of his life.Arthur Conan Doyle
Impacts inflicted by mining … include … disturbance of wildlife habitat …Todd Wilkinson
: a moving out of place
Bruce was particular about his things and would notice any slight disturbance to his stuff …Tegan Quin
These latter circumstances … may, I think, be accounted for, by the disturbance of the mud at the bottom of the sea …Charles Darwin
: a departure from a norm or standard : a deviation, disruption, or impairment in form, function, or activity
sleep disturbances
endocrine disturbances
Once identified as having an emotional disturbance with associated behavior problems, it's considered best practice for the child to get a behavior intervention plan …Patrick Skahil and David Desroches
Identifying coronavirus' economic effects combined with other major economic disturbances requires accurate data …Bruce Yandle
: noisy or violent activity : commotion
Police responding to complaints of a loud disturbance in a parking lot … found 15 to 20 teenagers gathered …R. Robin McDonald
: a local variation from the average or normal wind conditions

Examples of disturbance in a Sentence

She doesn't want any more disturbances while she is studying. He reacts badly to disturbance of his daily routine. Fish are able to detect even slight disturbances in the water. Disturbance of the river's sediment causes cloudy water. Neighbors called the police to report a disturbance. They were arrested for creating a disturbance. The violence that soldiers experience in war can lead to emotional disturbance in later years. See More
Recent Examples on the Web The vehicle had disappeared from view in long-range tracking cameras by that point, but a sudden, shimmering disturbance in the atmosphere may have been a sign of the rocket's destruction. William Harwood, CBS News, 18 Nov. 2023 The climate disturbance has also brought damaging extreme rain. Seth Borenstein, Fortune, 14 Nov. 2023 Police spokesperson Chad Rogers said there was a disturbance between two people at the location and the shooting was not random. Minyvonne Burke, NBC News, 14 Nov. 2023 If one person, flight attendant included, was not okay with your performance, it is considered a disturbance. Nardine Saad, Los Angeles Times, 13 Nov. 2023 Sacrificing the disturbance to the property will be well worth the camaraderie of a good old deer camp. Alex Robinson, Outdoor Life, 9 Nov. 2023 Some of our wintry weather will come from clippers, fast-moving disturbances from the northwest which typically produce light amounts of snow. Jason Samenow, Washington Post, 9 Nov. 2023 Their terrible fate provoked disturbances in the West Bank and Jerusalem, which the Palestinian Authority contained, and threatened to provoke Hezbollah’s aerial bombardment from the northern border. Bernard Avishai, The New Yorker, 15 Oct. 2023 Flames and smoke surge out of the back of the building, with the same intensity as the wind whipping the flag in the 2017 painting, but in the foreground the museum floats in a pool of water showing nary a trace of disturbance. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, 3 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'disturbance.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of disturbance was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near disturbance

Cite this Entry

“Disturbance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disturbance. Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


: the act of disturbing
: mental confusion : upset
: public commotion : disorder

Medical Definition


dis·​tur·​bance dis-ˈtər-bən(t)s How to pronounce disturbance (audio)
: a deviation, disruption, or impairment in form, function, or activity
visual disturbances
disturbances of metabolism
Emotional disturbance is one of the 13 disabilities schools use to identify students who may receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, the federal special education law.Howard Weiss-Tisman, Brattleboro (Vermont) Reformer

Legal Definition


: an interruption of peace or order
specifically : an interruption of the quiet enjoyment of one's property

More from Merriam-Webster on disturbance

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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