View synonyms for havoc


[ hav-uhk ]


  1. great destruction or devastation; ruinous damage.

    Synonyms: waste, ruin, desolation

verb (used with object)

, hav·ocked, hav·ock·ing.
  1. to work havoc upon; devastate.

verb (used without object)

, hav·ocked, hav·ock·ing.
  1. to work havoc:

    The fire havocked throughout the house.


/ ˈhævək /


  1. destruction; devastation; ruin
  2. informal.
    confusion; chaos
  3. cry havoc archaic.
    to give the signal for pillage and destruction
  4. play havoc
    often foll by with to cause a great deal of damage, distress, or confusion (to)
“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


  1. archaic.
    tr to lay waste
“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
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Other Words From

  • hav·ock·er noun
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Word History and Origins

Origin of havoc1

First recorded in 1400–50; late Middle English havok, from Anglo-French (in phrase crier havok “to cry havoc,” i.e., “utter the command havoc! ” as signal for pillaging), Middle French havot in same sense, from Germanic
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Word History and Origins

Origin of havoc1

C15: from Old French havot pillage, probably of Germanic origin
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Idioms and Phrases

  1. cry havoc, to warn of danger or disaster.
  2. play havoc with,
    1. to create confusion or disorder in:

      The wind played havoc with the papers on the desk.

    2. to destroy; ruin:

      The bad weather played havoc with our vacation plans.

  3. wreak havoc. wreak havoc.

More idioms and phrases containing havoc

see cry havoc ; play havoc .
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Synonym Study

See ruin.
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Example Sentences

Those ejections can wreak havoc on satellites or power grids when they strike Earth.

In addition to the market chaos that’s played havoc with returns this year, the investor has been dragged into a political debacle over the appointment of its new CEO, hedge-fund manager Nicolai Tangen.

From Fortune

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on small businesses while at at the same time accelerated consumers’ shift to digital and the business need for digital transformation.

On defense, Bonga creates havoc with both steals and blocks, and the Wizards play more like a competent NBA defense with him on the court, a huge bonus for the league’s worst defensive team.

The expanded postseason has given them another path to make the playoffs — and a chance to create havoc once there.

Earlier that day, officials say, Stone went on a bloody rampage killing six of his kin and wreaking havoc in three small towns.

In the later stages of the war, the American-made Stinger missile was introduced and wreaked havoc among the Soviet helicopters.

The mother also made a plea to the violent ones who wreak such havoc.

By the time the maids got back from the shore, peacocks had wrecked havoc on the waiting food.

The Fox miniseries 24: Live Another Day saw a massive drone wreak havoc on London.

They must be kept away from flies—a fly can work havoc with a film in a few minutes.

The laughing happy country girl—what havoc a few hours has made in that gay warm heart!

I have known them arrive in early autumn, and do great havoc amongst the apples, which they cut up to get at the pips.

Their borders you have wasted, and you have made great havoc in the land, and have got the dominion of many places in my kingdom.

But, before the equinox, disease began to make fearful havoc in the little community.


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More About Havoc

What does havoc mean?

Havoc means chaos, disorder, or confusion. It can also mean destruction, damage, or ruin. In many cases, it refers to a combination of these things.

The phrase wreak havoc means to cause chaos or destruction or both. The phrases play havoc and raise havoc mean the same thing.

Havoc is associated with seriously destructive and chaotic situations, such as natural disasters, as in The hurricane caused havoc throughout the region. But it can be used in a range of situations. An illness can wreakhavoc on your body. A virus can cause havoc in a computer network. The wind can wreak havoc on your hair. In most cases, havoc causes a situation that was (at least somewhat) orderly to become disorderly, especially when there is damage or destruction involved.

The phrase cry havoc means to raise an alarm or give a warning.

Havoc can be used as a verb meaning to cause havoc or destroy, but this is rare.

Example: A major accident on the highway has wreaked havoc on the morning commute, causing traffic jams and delays for miles around.

Where does havoc come from?

The first records of the word havoc come from around the 1400s. It comes from the Old French havot, meaning “to pillage” (to violently loot and plunder a place, especially during a war). In Anglo-French, the spelling havok was used in the phrase crier havok, meaning “to cry havoc.” This refers to the practice of a military commander shouting “Havoc!” as a command to start pillaging.

Shakespeare uses it this way in Julius Caesar: “Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war.” Eventually, cry havoc took on a new meaning: “to sound the alarm” (typically as a warning when something destructive is about to happen). Today, havoc is no longer closely associated with pillaging, but the chaos and destruction that happen when an invading army pillages a place is a perfect example of havoc.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to havoc?

  • havocked (past tense verb)
  • havocking (continuous tense verb)
  • havocker (noun)

What are some synonyms for havoc?

What are some words that share a root or word element with havoc

What are some words that often get used in discussing havoc?

How is havoc used in real life?

Havoc is used in the context of situations that involve chaos, destruction, and often both.


Try using havoc!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of havoc?

A. calm
B. devastation
C. chaos
D. mayhem

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.