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See more synonyms for devastating on Thesaurus.com
  1. tending or threatening to devastate: a devastating fire.
  2. satirical, ironic, or caustic in an effective way: a devastating portrayal of society.
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Origin of devastating

First recorded in 1625–35; devastate + -ing2
Related formsdev·as·tat·ing·ly, adverbun·dev·as·tat·ing, adjectiveun·dev·as·tat·ing·ly, adverb


verb (used with object), dev·as·tat·ed, dev·as·tat·ing.
  1. to lay waste; render desolate: The invaders devastated the city.
  2. to overwhelm.
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Origin of devastate

1625–35; < Latin dēvastātus laid waste (past participle of dēvastāre), equivalent to dē- de- + vast(āre) to lay waste (akin to vastus empty) + -ātus -ate1
Related formsdev·as·ta·tive, adjectivedev·as·ta·tor, nounun·dev·as·tat·ed, adjective

Synonym study

1. See ravage.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for devastating

overwhelming, calamitous, disastrous, destructive, crushing, mortifying, biting, caustic, incisive

Examples from the Web for devastating

Contemporary Examples of devastating

Historical Examples of devastating

  • If people seldom cry it has a devastating effect on their appearance when they do.

    Jan and Her Job

    L. Allen Harker

  • Israel was the evil one for whose sin they suffered this devastating plague.

    The Scapegoat

    Hall Caine

  • Remote as many of these jungles are, the plumage hunter is devastating them already.

    Conservation Reader

    Harold W. Fairbanks

  • Sometimes it was intermittent, and came down in devastating floods.

    Freaks on the Fells

    R.M. Ballantyne

  • That is a sample of the character of that devastating march.

    Following the Equator, Complete

    Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

British Dictionary definitions for devastating


  1. extremely effective in a destructive waya devastating war; a devastating report on urban deprivation
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Derived Formsdevastatingly, adverb


verb (tr)
  1. to lay waste or make desolate; ravage; destroy
  2. to confound or overwhelm, as with grief or shock
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Derived Formsdevastation, noundevastative, adjectivedevastator, noun

Word Origin for devastate

C17: from Latin dēvastāre, from de- + vastāre to ravage; related to vastus waste, empty
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 devastating


1630s, present participle adjective from devastate. Trivial use by 1889.

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1630s, perhaps a back-formation from devastation. Apparently not common until 19c.; earlier verb form devast is attested from 1530s, from Middle French devaster. Related: devastated; devastating.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper