[fee-as-koh or especially for 2, -ah-skoh]

noun, plural fi·as·cos, fi·as·coes.

a complete and ignominious failure.
a round-bottomed glass flask for wine, especially Chianti, fitted with a woven, protective raffia basket that also enables the bottle to stand upright.

Origin of fiasco

1850–55; < Italian: literally, bottle < Germanic (see flask1); sense “failure” from Italian phrase far fiasco to fail, literally, to make a bottle, idiom of uncertain origin

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

Examples from the Web for fiasco

Contemporary Examples of fiasco

Historical Examples of fiasco

  • In 1639 he was appointed general of the horse, and drew ridicule upon himself by the fiasco at Kelso.

  • Both knew the sensible, judicious act would be to alarm the guards and thus avoid all possible chance of a fiasco.


    George Barr McCutcheon

  • The fiasco of Panama still rankled in his soul, and he resolved this time to let as few of the enemy escape him as possible.

    The Gilded Man

    Clifford Smyth

  • John was invited and made a speech in verse in order to make his exit seem as little like a fiasco as possible.

    The Growth of a Soul

    August Strindberg

  • Surely her brilliant life was not to end in such a fiasco as this.

    A Mad Love

    Bertha M. Clay

British Dictionary definitions for fiasco


noun plural -cos or -coes

a complete failure, esp one that is ignominious or humiliating

Word Origin for fiasco

C19: from Italian, literally: flask; sense development obscure
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 fiasco

1855, theater slang for "a failure," by 1862 acquired the general sense of any dismal flop, on or off the stage. Via French phrase fiare fiasco "turn out a failure" (19c.), from Italian far fiasco "suffer a complete breakdown in performance," literally "make a bottle," from fiasco "bottle," from Late Latin flasco, flasconem (see flask).

The reason for all this is utterly obscure today, but "the usual range of fanciful theories has been advanced" [Ayto]. Weekley finds it utterly mysterious and compares French ramasser un pelle "to come a cropper (in bicycling), literally to pick up a shovel." OED makes nebulous reference to "alleged incidents in Italian theatrical history." Klein suggests Venetian glass-crafters tossing aside imperfect pieces to be made later into common flasks. But according to an Italian dictionary, fare il fiasco used to mean "to play a game so that the one that loses will pay the fiasco," in other words, he will buy the next bottle (of wine). That plausibly connects the word with the notion of "a costly mistake."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper