from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Superior or overpowering force.
  • n. An unexpected or uncontrollable event.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. an overwhelming force
  • n. an unavoidable catastrophe, especially one that prevents someone from fulfilling a legal obligation

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Superior force.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a natural and unavoidable catastrophe that interrupts the expected course of events


French : force, force + majeure, greater.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French force majeure (greater force) (Wiktionary)


Sorry, no example sentences found.

Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • A good word about now..

    October 1, 2008

  • "'Bless me, the Emperor's envoy has put off already.'

    "'God damn and blast the man,' cried the Admiral, looking angrily at the clock. 'Let him go and ... no: we must not offend the Moors. I shall not have time for Aubrey. Pray tell him so, Mr Yarrow—make my excuses—force majeure—do the civil thing—bid him to dinner and let him bring Dr Maturin; or let them come tomorrow morning, if that don't suit.'"
    --Patrick O'Brian, The Far Side of the World, 18

    OED: "Irresistible force or overwhelming power," from the French for "superior power." In law, something that prevents a party from discharging its obligations.

    February 19, 2008