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havoc

[hav-uh k]
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noun
  1. great destruction or devastation; ruinous damage.
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verb (used with object), hav·ocked, hav·ock·ing.
  1. to work havoc upon; devastate.
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verb (used without object), hav·ocked, hav·ock·ing.
  1. to work havoc: The fire havocked throughout the house.
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Idioms
  1. cry havoc, to warn of danger or disaster.
  2. play havoc with,
    1. to create confusion or disorder in: The wind played havoc with the papers on the desk.
    2. to destroy; ruin: The bad weather played havoc with our vacation plans.
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Origin of havoc

1400–50; late Middle English havok < Anglo-French (in phrase crier havok to cry havoc, i.e., utter the command havoc! as signal for pillaging), Middle French havot in same sense < Germanic
Related formshav·ock·er, noun

Synonyms

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1. desolation, waste. See ruin.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for cry havoc

havoc

noun
  1. destruction; devastation; ruin
  2. informal confusion; chaos
  3. cry havoc archaic to give the signal for pillage and destruction
  4. play havoc (often foll by with) to cause a great deal of damage, distress, or confusion (to)
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verb -ocs, -ocking or -ocked
  1. (tr) archaic to lay waste
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Word Origin

C15: from Old French havot pillage, probably of Germanic origin
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 cry havoc

havoc

n.

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with cry havoc

cry havoc

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.

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havoc

see cry havoc; play havoc.

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