[dey-bah-kuhl, -bak-uhl, duh-]


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.

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

Synonyms for debacle Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for debacle

Contemporary Examples of debacle

Historical Examples of debacle

  • The next subject upon which I thought I might tackle him was the “Debacle.”

  • The debacle of Russia was ever before the eyes of these nations.

  • Some place in that debacle there lay his own responsibility.

    Dangerous Days

    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • How long would it be before we reached this stage of debacle?

    Our Elizabeth

    Florence A. Kilpatrick

  • That was one way of putting it, but both Joe and the newscaster who had covered the debacle knew the reality of the situation.


    Dallas McCord Reynolds

British Dictionary definitions for debacle



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