Meaning of DISASTER in English

I. də̇ˈz]astə(r), ]aas-, ]ais-, ]ȧs also də̇ˈs]; -ˈs- is less frequent in “disastrous” than in “disaster”, probably because three identical sounds (here, S- sounds) within as many syllables cause a stronger tendency to dissimilation than do two \ noun

( -s )

Usage: often attributive

Etymology: Middle French & Old Italian; Middle French desastre, from Old Italian disastro, from dis- dis- (I) (from Latin) + astro star, from Latin astrum, from Greek astron — more at star

1. obsolete

a. : an unpropitious or baleful aspect of a planet or star

b. : portent : malevolent influence of a heavenly body


a. : a sudden calamitous event producing great material damage, loss, and distress

a flood disaster

a mine disaster

such a war would be the final and supreme disaster to the world — Archibald MacLeish

b. : a sudden or great misfortune : calamity

the loss of his wife was the culminating disaster of the trip

c. : a complete failure : fiasco

only his skillful direction saved the play from being a unqualified disaster


calamity , catastrophe , cataclysm : these words refer to events of great misfortune, duress, and loss, and they are often interchangeable. disaster may connote the sudden and unexpected, with attendant notions of lack of foresight

accidents to various ships thwarted this attempt, and brought about a battle disastrous to him — A.T.Mahan

The misfortunes of a disaster may be measurable

taking the atom bomb out of the realms of unimaginable horror and showing it as a measurable disaster — Economist

calamity may heighten suggestions of lasting emotion, affliction, grief at loss

a disaster, for me a calamity — John Galsworthy

revolving this last chapter of calamity suddenly opened where happiness had promised — George Meredith

catastrophe is often stronger than disaster or calamity

which spell discomfort when one cycle, distress when two, catastrophe when all cycles are in the depression phase — E.R.Dewey & E.F.Dakin

It may suggest finality

has Europe been engulfed at last by irrevocable tragedy? Has the fair continent … been overtaken at last by irremediable catastrophe — T.R.Ybarra

cataclysm suggests an upheaval that overwhelms, shatters, and submerges an established order; it usually applies to the general or universal rather than to the limited or personal

it is not clear whether the Norman Conquest and the Russian Revolution are cataclysms or forms of political activity — J.C.Rees

the impact of war and defeat on the South was immediate and cataclysmic — Allan Nevins & H.S.Commager

All of these words and their derivatives are used less precisely in milder situations

a considerable incident. Almost a disaster — Joseph Conrad

live down its small calamities — Frederic Morton

to save the city from the catastrophic mismanagement of its own officials — T.E.Dewey

the catclysmic race, with two real chariots, each drawn by four Arabian horses — Time

II. transitive verb

( -ed/-ing/-s )

obsolete : to bring harm upon : injure , ruin

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.