[ dey-bah-kuhl, -bak-uhl, duh- ]
/ deɪˈbɑ kəl, -ˈbæk əl, də- /


a general breakup or dispersion; sudden downfall or rout: The revolution ended in a debacle.
a complete collapse or failure.
a breaking up of ice in a river.Compare embacle.
a violent rush of waters or ice.

Nearby words

  1. deattribution,
  2. deauville,
  3. deave,
  4. deb,
  5. deb.,
  6. debag,
  7. debakey,
  8. debanding,
  9. debar,
  10. debark

Origin of debacle

1795–1805; < French débâcle, derivative of débâcler to unbar, clear, equivalent to dé- dis-1 + bâcler to bar ≪ Latin baculum stick, rod Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for debacle

British Dictionary definitions for debacle


/ (deɪˈbɑːkəl, dɪ-) /


a sudden disastrous collapse or defeat, esp one involving a disorderly retreat; rout
the breaking up of ice in a river during spring or summer, often causing flooding
a violent rush of water carrying along debris

Word Origin for debacle

C19: from French débâcle, from Old French desbacler to unbolt, ultimately from Latin baculum rod, staff

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 debacle



"disaster," 1848, from French débâcle "downfall, collapse, disaster" (17c.), a figurative use, literally "breaking up (of ice on a river)," extended to the violent flood that follows when the river ice melts in spring; from débâcler "to free," from Middle French desbacler "to unbar," from des- "off" + bacler "to bar," from Vulgar Latin *bacculare, from Latin baculum "stick" (see bacillus). Sense of "disaster" was present in French before English borrowed the word.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper