play havoc

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Also, raise or wreak havoc. Disrupt, damage, or destroy something, as in The wind played havoc with her hair, or The fire alarm raised havoc with the children, or The earthquake wrought havoc in the town. The noun havoc was once used as a command for invaders to begin looting and killing, but by the 1800s the term was being used for somewhat less aggressive activities. For a synonym, see play the devil with.

Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.


What does play havoc mean?

To play havoc is to cause chaos or destruction or both.

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 verb play in the phrase isn’t used in any of the ways that usually is. In play havoc, play basically means to inflict or cause.

The phrases wreak havoc and raise havoc mean the same thing as play havoc.

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

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

Where does play havoc come from?

The phrase play havoc has been used since at least the 1800s. The word havoc 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.

Today, havoc is no longer closely associated with pillaging, but an invading army pillaging and causing chaos and destruction is a perfect example of playing havoc. Unlike wreak havoc and raise havoc, which are synonyms of play havoc, the phrase cry havoc means “to sound the alarm” (typically as a warning when something destructive is about to happen).

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What are some synonyms for play havoc?

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

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

How is play havoc used in real life?

Play havoc is used in the context of situations that involve chaos, destruction, and often both. The phrase wreak havoc means the same thing and is probably more commonly used, especially in the U.S.



Try using play havoc!

Which of the following terms is NOT a synonym of play havoc?

A. wreak havoc
B. raise havoc
C. cry havoc
D. disrupt

How to use play havoc in a sentence