act of God

noun Law.

a direct, sudden, and irresistible action of natural forces such as could not reasonably have been foreseen or prevented, as a flood, hurricane, earthquake, or other natural catastrophe.

Origin of act of God

First recorded in 1855–60 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for act of god

accident, earthquake, hurricane, marvel, phenomenon, tornado, wonder

British Dictionary definitions for act of god

act of God


law a sudden and inevitable occurrence caused by natural forces and not by the agency of man, such as a flood, earthquake, or a similar catastrophe
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

act of god in Culture

act of God

An event beyond human control — e.g., hurricane, earthquake, volcanic eruption (see volcano), etc. — for which there is no legal redress. The phrase is frequently used by insurance companies and lawyers.

act of God

A natural catastrophe, e.g., a hurricane, an earthquake, or a volcanic eruption. (See volcano.)


As a legal term relating to property damage, it appears in insurance contracts: “After the flood, Papovich was dismayed to discover that his house was not insured against acts of God.”


In contracts dealing with the delivery of goods or services, the term is used to protect the parties from litigation over delays or failures in performance owing to circumstances beyond their control.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with act of god

act of God

An unforeseen and uncontrollable natural event, such as a hurricane, fire, or flood. For example, The publisher shall publish the work within twelve months except in case of delay caused by acts of God such as fires or floods or other circumstances beyond its control. It most often appears in legal contracts, where it is used to indemnify one party against a disaster that prevents it from carrying out the contract's terms. [Mid-1800s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.