• synonyms


[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.
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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

Related Words for disaster

harm, crash, catastrophe, emergency, failure, fiasco, holocaust, mishap, flood, calamity, debacle, setback, defeat, hazard, woe, tragedy, collapse, ruination, undoing, misadventure

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.

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


    W. A. Fraser

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


    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
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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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper