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[dih-zas-ter, -zah-ster] /dɪˈzæs tər, -ˈzɑ stər/
a calamitous event, especially one occurring suddenly and causing great loss of life, damage, or hardship, as a flood, airplane crash, or business failure.
Obsolete. an unfavorable aspect of a star or planet.
Origin of disaster
1585-95; < Middle French desastre < Italian disastro, equivalent to dis- dis-1 + astro star < Latin astrum < Greek ástron
Related forms
predisaster, noun
1. mischance, misfortune, misadventure, mishap, accident, blow, reverse, adversity, affliction. Disaster, calamity, catastrophe, cataclysm refer to adverse happenings often occurring suddenly and unexpectedly. A disaster may be caused by carelessness, negligence, bad judgment, or the like, or by natural forces, as a hurricane or flood: a railroad disaster. Calamity suggests great affliction, either personal or general; the emphasis is on the grief or sorrow caused: the calamity of losing a child. Catastrophe refers especially to the tragic outcome of a personal or public situation; the emphasis is on the destruction or irreplaceable loss: the catastrophe of a defeat in battle. Cataclysm, physically an earth-shaking change, refers to a personal or public upheaval of unparalleled violence: a cataclysm that turned his life in a new direction. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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British Dictionary definitions for disaster


an occurrence that causes great distress or destruction
a thing, project, etc, that fails or has been ruined
Derived Forms
disastrous, adjective
Word Origin
C16 (originally in the sense: malevolent astral influence): from Italian disastro, from dis- (pejorative) + astro star, from Latin astrum, from Greek astron
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 disaster

1590s, from Middle French désastre (1560s), from Italian disastro "ill-starred," from dis-, here merely pejorative (see dis-) + astro "star, planet," from Latin astrum, from Greek astron (see star (n.)). The sense is astrological, of a calamity blamed on an unfavorable position of a planet.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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