Definition of disaster in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /dɪˈzɑːstə/


1A sudden accident or a natural catastrophe that causes great damage or loss of life: 159 people died in the disaster [mass noun]: disaster struck within minutes of take-off
More example sentences
  • Hurricane Katrina will be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history by a factor of five.
  • The horrific devastation caused by this tsunami may be the worst natural disaster in recent history.
  • And President Bush is offering U.S. aid and condolences to people affected by the Asian tsunami disaster.
catastrophe, calamity, cataclysm, tragedy, act of God, holocaust;
accident, mishap, misadventure, mischance;
setback, reversal, reverse of fortune, contretemps, stroke of ill luck, problem, difficulty, heavy blow, shock, buffet;
adversity, trouble, misfortune, ruin, ruination, tribulation, woe, distress
technical casualty
archaic bale
Scottish archaic mishanter
1.1 [as modifier] Denoting a genre of films that use natural or accidental catastrophe as the mainspring of plot and setting: a disaster movie
More example sentences
  • This disc is worth at least a rental, and if you're a fan of disaster type flicks, a purchase.
  • It felt like trespassing onto the film set of a disaster movie.
  • It's only a matter of time before we're treated to a World Trade Center disaster film.
1.2An event or fact that has unfortunate consequences: a string of personal disasters [mass noun]: reduced legal aid could spell financial disaster
More example sentences
  • But a series of personal disasters and financial ruin triggered a mental disorder that was to turn the father of two into a killer.
  • The suite contains the computers and equipment necessary to help a small business function in the event of a company disaster.
  • It was recognised as such by the Iraqi people, but the subsequent handling of events was a disaster.
1.3 informal A person or thing that is a complete failure: lunch had turned out to be a total disaster
More example sentences
  • And it was fine for all the media celebs to go to a ball game but it was a total disaster for Kerry to do so.
  • He's had a very hard time. His current situation is a total disaster.
  • Maize, a relatively new crop, is looking like a total disaster, according to Mr Dempsey.
failure, fiasco, catastrophe, mess, debacle;
British  damp squib
informal flop, dud, washout, dead loss, dead duck, non-starter, no-hoper, fail
British informal car crash


Late 16th century: from Italian disastro 'ill-starred event', from dis- (expressing negation) + astro 'star' (from Latin astrum).

  • In a disaster the stars are against you, for this is from Italian disastro ‘ill-starred event’, from dis- (expressing negation) and astro ‘star’ from Latin astrum. See also asterisk

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: dis|as¦ter

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.