[dih-zas-ter, -zah-ster]
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  1. a calamitous event, especially one occurring suddenly and causing great loss of life, damage, or hardship, as a flood, airplane crash, or business failure.
  2. Obsolete. an unfavorable aspect of a star or planet.

Origin of disaster

1585–95; < Middle French desastre < Italian disastro, equivalent to dis- dis-1 + astro star < Latin astrum < Greek ástron
Related formspre·dis·as·ter, noun

Synonyms for disaster

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Synonym study

1. Disaster, calamity, catastrophe, cataclysm refer to adverse happenings often occurring suddenly and unexpectedly. A disaster may be caused by carelessness, negligence, bad judgment, or the like, or by natural forces, as a hurricane or flood: a railroad disaster. Calamity suggests great affliction, either personal or general; the emphasis is on the grief or sorrow caused: the calamity of losing a child. Catastrophe refers especially to the tragic outcome of a personal or public situation; the emphasis is on the destruction or irreplaceable loss: the catastrophe of a defeat in battle. Cataclysm, physically an earth-shaking change, refers to a personal or public upheaval of unparalleled violence: a cataclysm that turned his life in a new direction.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for disaster

Contemporary Examples of disaster

Historical Examples of disaster

  • On Sidney—and in less measure, of course, on K.—fell the real brunt of the disaster.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • So he caught their minds as he had caught the Stick, swinging back from disaster.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • Verily their way shall be filled with disaster; lo, then we shall rest.

  • No good can come of it—no good has ever come of it—nothing but disaster and trouble.


    W. A. Fraser

  • On Mike's face was a map of disaster; the disaster might be trivial or great.


    W. A. Fraser

British Dictionary definitions for disaster


  1. an occurrence that causes great distress or destruction
  2. a thing, project, etc, that fails or has been ruined
Derived Formsdisastrous, adjective

Word Origin for disaster

C16 (originally in the sense: malevolent astral influence): from Italian disastro, from dis- (pejorative) + astro star, from Latin astrum, from Greek astron
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 disaster

1590s, from Middle French désastre (1560s), from Italian disastro "ill-starred," from dis-, here merely pejorative (see dis-) + astro "star, planet," from Latin astrum, from Greek astron (see star (n.)). The sense is astrological, of a calamity blamed on an unfavorable position of a planet.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper