Definition of catastrophe in English:


Line breaks: ca¦tas|tro¦phe
Pronunciation: /kəˈtastrəfi


  • 1An event causing great and usually sudden damage or suffering; a disaster: an environmental catastrophe [mass noun]: inaction will only bring us closer to catastrophe
    More example sentences
    • Before this year of disasters even began, it was heralded by a natural catastrophe as sudden and violent as anything that followed.
    • Had they been accepted we would have had a local environmental catastrophe and a national commercial disaster.
    • This would be a cautionary tale of catastrophes narrowly averted and environmental damage now emerging.
    disaster, calamity, cataclysm, crisis, holocaust, ruin, ruination, tragedy, blow, shock; adversity, blight, trouble, trial, tribulation, mishap, misfortune, mischance, misadventure, accident, failure, reverse, woe, affliction, distress
    informal meltdown, whammy
    archaic bale
    Scottish archaic mishanter
  • 1.1Something very unfortunate or unsuccessful: the tax would be a catastrophe for the industry
    More example sentences
    • I mean, it's a catastrophe for the industry that really doesn't need one more.
    • Overall it is not thought that the film industry will be too severely affected by yesterday's catastrophe.
    • The dread of even a single potential catastrophe and its implications for all industry members outweighed any objection to a reporting system for near misses.
  • 2The denouement of a drama, especially a classical tragedy.
    More example sentences
    • This is an old insight, of course - as old as the domestic catastrophes of classical Greek drama.


mid 16th century (in the sense 'denouement'): from Latin catastropha, from Greek katastrophē 'overturning, sudden turn', from kata- 'down' + strophē 'turning' (from strephein 'to turn').

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