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 Thanks to the havoc wreaked upon federal anti-corruption laws by the Supreme Court over the last 15 years, corruption is an almost pedestrian habit in modern American politics. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 14 Oct. 2021 After the havoc wreaked by a virus that wiped out last year’s physical race, the resurrection of the famed marathon Oct. 11 represents something of a logistical, if not existential, miracle. BostonGlobe.com, 11 Oct. 2021 One problem was that an excessive focus on bumper U.S. numbers obscured the havoc caused by coronavirus variants in developing nations, which ended up affecting domestic U.S. traffic too. Jon Sindreu, WSJ, 6 Oct. 2021 Its capacity for havoc derives from exploiting existing vulnerable communities. Douglas Haynes, Forbes, 8 Sep. 2021 In director Bernard Rose’s version, the story begins with tales of the monstrous spirit that explains the havoc being inflicted on Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project. Tanya Christian, Glamour, 27 Aug. 2021 Jack says that although their dad has a positive attitude about healing, Kilmer is still recovering from the havoc his cancer treatments wreaked on his body. Kara Warner, PEOPLE.com, 26 Aug. 2021 The havoc, five days after the Taliban stormed the capital in a swift conquest that stunned American officials, attests to the terror inspired by the militants, as well as the logistical obstacles faced by the United States and its allies. Mark Landler, New York Times, 20 Aug. 2021 When PAW Patrol’s biggest rival, Humdinger, becomes Mayor of nearby Adventure City and starts wreaking havoc, Ryder and everyone’s favorite heroic pups kick into high gear to face the challenge head on. Mark Heim | Mheim@al.com, al, 19 Aug. 2021

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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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

19 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Havoc.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/havoc. Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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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 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on havoc

Nglish: Translation of havoc for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of havoc for Arabic Speakers


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