[kat-uh-kliz-uh m]


any violent upheaval, especially one of a social or political nature.
Physical Geography. a sudden and violent physical action producing changes in the earth's surface.
an extensive flood; deluge.

Origin of cataclysm

1625–35; < Late Latin cataclysmos (Vulgate) < Greek kataklysmós flood (akin to kataklýzein to flood), equivalent to kata- cata- + klysmós a washing
Can be confusedcataclysm catechism

Synonym study

1. See disaster. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for cataclysm

Contemporary Examples of cataclysm

Historical Examples of cataclysm

  • There was no doubt in his mind that somehow they had been responsible for the cataclysm.

    Pirates of the Gorm

    Nat Schachner

  • De Launay dominated her, and she stood as rigid as a statue, awaiting the cataclysm.

    Louisiana Lou

    William West Winter

  • He had snatched a soul for himself out of a cataclysm, remember.

    A Set of Six

    Joseph Conrad

  • I have been trying to save my soul with it in the cataclysm of a world.

  • Back had they gone to town, and then came the cataclysm of noon.

    Warrior Gap

    Charles King

British Dictionary definitions for cataclysm



a violent upheaval, esp of a political, military, or social nature
a disastrous flood; deluge
geology another name for catastrophe (def. 4)
Derived Formscataclysmic or cataclysmal, adjectivecataclysmically, adverb

Word Origin for cataclysm

C17: via French from Latin, from Greek kataklusmos deluge, from katakluzein to flood, from kluzein to wash
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

Word Origin and History for cataclysm

1630s, from French cataclysme (16c.), from Latin cataclysmos or directly from Greek kataklysmos "deluge, flood, inundation," from kataklyzein "to deluge," from kata "down" (see cata-) + klyzein "to wash," from PIE *kleue- "to wash, clean" (see cloaca).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper