Meaning of DISASTER in English

di ‧ sas ‧ ter S3 W3 /dɪˈzɑːstə $ dɪˈzæstər/ BrE AmE noun [uncountable and countable]

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ disaster ; adverb : ↑ disastrously ; adjective : ↑ disastrous ]

[ Date: 1500-1600 ; Language: French ; Origin: désastre , from Italian disastro , from astro 'star' (from the idea of luck coming from the stars) ]

1 . a sudden event such as a flood, storm, or accident which causes great damage or suffering ⇨ catastrophe :

One hundred and twenty people died in China’s worst air disaster.

the economic consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster

disaster for

The oil spill was a disaster for Alaskan sea animals.

The 1987 hurricane was the worst natural disaster to hit England for decades.

Their expedition nearly ended in disaster, when one of the climbers slid off the mountain.

The drought could spell disaster for wildlife.

Disaster struck when two men were killed during their parachute jumps.

The peace process was on the brink of disaster.

Luckily the pilot saw the other plane just in time, and a disaster was narrowly averted.

2 . something that is very bad or a failure, especially when this is very annoying or disappointing

something is a complete/total/disaster

Because of the weather, the parade was a total disaster.

The evening was an unmitigated disaster (=a complete failure) .

disaster for

The cuts in funding will be a disaster for the schools.

Five small boys on skis is a recipe for disaster (=is very likely to end badly) .

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 1)

■ ADJECTIVES/NOUN + disaster

▪ a natural disaster (=caused by nature)

In recent years there has been an increase in weather-related natural disasters.

▪ an ecological/environmental disaster (=causing great damage to nature)

This region is facing an ecological disaster as a result of toxic waste.

▪ an air/rail disaster (=an air or rail accident)

The crash was the worst rail disaster in Pakistan’s history.

▪ a nuclear disaster (=an accident involving nuclear power or weapons)

A conflict could get out of hand and degenerate into nuclear disaster.

▪ a terrible disaster

It was a terrible disaster which carried away a large part of the hillside.

■ verbs

▪ a disaster strikes (=happens suddenly)

Congress often gives millions of dollars in foreign aid when natural disasters strike.

▪ prevent/avert a disaster

They called for an international programme to prevent the disaster happening again.

■ disaster + NOUN

▪ a disaster area/zone (=area where a disaster has happened)

Military planes flew food supplies to the disaster area.

▪ disaster relief (=money, food, clothes etc for people in a disaster area)

an emergency appeal for disaster relief

▪ a disaster victim (=someone who is suffering because of a disaster)

Aid is being given to the disaster victims.

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 2)

■ adjectives

▪ a complete/total disaster

Last Saturday’s game was a complete disaster for our team.

▪ a financial/economic/military etc disaster

The project was a financial disaster.

▪ a national disaster

The Labour Party called the new government 'a national disaster'.

▪ a personal disaster

I’d taken some professional risks and survived a few personal disasters.

▪ an unmitigated disaster (=a complete failure)

The $24,000,000 movie was an unmitigated disaster.

▪ a potential disaster (=one that could happen)

Always save a backup copy of your work to avoid potential disasters.

▪ an impending disaster (=one that is going to happen soon)

She had a sense of impending disaster.

■ verbs

▪ end in disaster

By the late 1990s his career had ended in disaster.

▪ spell disaster (=cause something to end badly or fail)

Bad luck and the recession spelt disaster for her business.

■ phrases

▪ be on the brink of disaster (=be almost ending in a very bad way)

Once again the peace process was on the brink of disaster.

▪ be a recipe for disaster (=be a situation that is very likely to end badly)

If you get married too young, it’s a recipe for disaster.

▪ something is a disaster waiting to happen (=used to say that something is bad and will fail)

The government’s educational reforms are a disaster waiting to happen.

• • •


▪ disaster a sudden event such as an accident, or a natural event such as a flood or storm, which causes great damage or suffering:

200 people died in the train disaster.


The earthquake was the worst natural disaster to hit India for over 50 years.

▪ catastrophe a terrible event in which there is a lot of destruction, damage, suffering, or death over a wide area of the world:

A large comet hitting the earth would be a catastrophe.


We don’t want another nuclear catastrophe like Chernobyl.


Scientists say that the oil spill is an ecological catastrophe.

▪ tragedy a very sad event, that shocks people because it involves death:

It was a tragedy that he died so young.


the AIDS tragedy in Africa

▪ debacle an event or situation that is a complete failure and is very embarrassing:

The opening ceremony turned into a debacle.


The team is hoping to do better this game, after last week’s debacle against the Chicago Bears.

■ natural disasters

▪ earthquake a sudden shaking of the earth’s surface that often causes a lot of damage:

A powerful earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.


It was the biggest earthquake to hit the Pacific Northwest for 52 years.

▪ flood a very large amount of water that covers an area that is usually dry:

Bangladesh has been hit by a series of devastating floods (=very bad floods) .


The crisis began with floods that covered one third of the countryside.

▪ drought a long period of dry weather when there is not enough water for plants and animals to live:

The country experienced its worst drought this century.


In East Africa, three years of drought have left 10 million people in urgent need of food and water.

▪ famine a situation in which a large number of people have little or no food for a long time and many people die:

Poor harvests led to famine.


4,000,000 people are threatened by famine in northern Ethiopia.

▪ hurricane a storm that has very strong fast winds and that moves over water – used about storms in the North Atlantic Ocean:

extreme weather such as hurricanes


Hurricane Andrew left southern Florida in ruins.

▪ typhoon a violent tropical storm – used about storms in the Western Pacific Ocean:

A typhoon has hit the Philippines, lifting roofs off houses and uprooting trees.

▪ tsunami a very large wave, caused by extreme conditions such as an earthquake, which can cause a lot of damage when it reaches land:

Thousands of people were killed in the tsunami.


Many Pacific earthquakes have generated tsunamis.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.