- great destruction or devastation; ruinous damage.
- to work havoc upon; devastate.
- to work havoc: The fire havocked throughout the house.
- cry havoc, to warn of danger or disaster.
- play havoc with,
- to create confusion or disorder in: The wind played havoc with the papers on the desk.
- to destroy; ruin: The bad weather played havoc with our vacation plans.
Origin of havoc
Synonyms for havoc
- destruction; devastation; ruin
- informal confusion; chaos
- cry havoc archaic to give the signal for pillage and destruction
- play havoc (often foll by with) to cause a great deal of damage, distress, or confusion (to)
- (tr) archaic to lay waste
Word Origin for havoc
early 15c., from Anglo-French havok in phrase crier havok "cry havoc" (late 14c.), a signal to soldiers to seize plunder, from Old French havot "pillaging, looting," related to haver "to seize, grasp," hef "hook," probably from a Germanic source (see hawk (n.)), or from Latin habere "to have, possess." General sense of "devastation" first recorded late 15c.
Sound an alarm or warning, as in In his sermon the pastor cried havoc to the congregation's biases against gays. The noun havoc was once a command for invaders to begin looting and killing the defenders' town. Shakespeare so used it in Julius Caesar (3:1): “Cry 'Havoc' and let slip the dogs of war.” By the 19th century the phrase had acquired its present meaning.
see cry havoc; play havoc.