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[dey-bah-kuh l, -bak-uh l, duh-] /deɪˈbɑ kəl, -ˈbæk əl, də-/
a general breakup or dispersion; sudden downfall or rout:
The revolution ended in a debacle.
a complete collapse or failure.
a breaking up of ice in a river.
Compare embacle.
a violent rush of waters or ice.
Origin of debacle
1795-1805; < French débâcle, derivative of débâcler to unbar, clear, equivalent to dé- dis-1 + bâcler to bar ≪ Latin baculum stick, rod
2. disaster, ruin, fiasco, catastrophe, calamity. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for debacle
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The next subject upon which I thought I might tackle him was the “debacle.”

  • The debacle of Russia was ever before the eyes of these nations.

    With the Doughboy in France

    Edward Hungerford
  • Some place in that debacle there lay his own responsibility.

    Dangerous Days Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • How long would it be before we reached this stage of debacle?

    Our Elizabeth

    Florence A. Kilpatrick
  • That was one way of putting it, but both Joe and the newscaster who had covered the debacle knew the reality of the situation.

    Mercenary Dallas McCord Reynolds
British Dictionary definitions for debacle


/deɪˈbɑːkəl; dɪ-/
a sudden disastrous collapse or defeat, esp one involving a disorderly retreat; rout
the breaking up of ice in a river during spring or summer, often causing flooding
a violent rush of water carrying along debris
Word Origin
C19: from French débâcle, from Old French desbacler to unbolt, ultimately from Latin baculum rod, staff
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for debacle

"disaster," 1848, from French débâcle "downfall, collapse, disaster" (17c.), a figurative use, literally "breaking up (of ice on a river)," extended to the violent flood that follows when the river ice melts in spring; from débâcler "to free," from Middle French desbacler "to unbar," from des- "off" + bacler "to bar," from Vulgar Latin *bacculare, from Latin baculum "stick" (see bacillus). Sense of "disaster" was present in French before English borrowed the word.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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