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

  • n. A great, often sudden calamity.
  • n. A complete failure; a fiasco: The food was cold, the guests quarreled—the whole dinner was a catastrophe.
  • n. The concluding action of a drama, especially a classical tragedy, following the climax and containing a resolution of the plot.
  • n. A sudden violent change in the earth's surface; a cataclysm.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any large and disastrous event of great significance.
  • n. A disaster beyond expectations
  • n. The dramatic event that initiates the resolution of the plot in a tragedy.
  • n. A type of bifurcation, where a system shifts between two stable states.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An event producing a subversion of the order or system of things; a final event, usually of a calamitous or disastrous nature; hence, sudden calamity; great misfortune.
  • n. The final event in a romance or a dramatic piece; a denouement, as a death in a tragedy, or a marriage in a comedy.
  • n. A violent and widely extended change in the surface of the earth, .

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The arrangement of actions or interconnection of causes which constitutes the final event of a dramatic piece; the unfolding and winding up of the plot, clearing up difficulties, and closing the play; the dénouement.
  • n. A notable event terminating a connected series; a finishing stroke or wind-up; specifically, an unfortunate conclusion; hence, any great calamity or disaster, especially one happening suddenly or from an irresistible cause.
  • n. In geology, an occurrence of geological importance not in harmony with preceding events, and not the result of causes acting always in a given direction; a cataclysm.
  • n. Synonyms Disaster, Calamity, etc. (see mis-fortune); consummation, finale.

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

  • n. an event resulting in great loss and misfortune
  • n. a state of extreme (usually irremediable) ruin and misfortune
  • n. a sudden violent change in the earth's surface


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

Greek katastrophē, an overturning, ruin, conclusion, from katastrephein, to ruin, undo : kata-, cata- + strephein, to turn; see streb(h)- in Indo-European roots.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Ancient Greek καταστροφή (katastrophē), from καταστρέφω (katastrephō, "I overturn"), from κατά (kata, "down, against") + στρέφω (strephō, "I turn")


  • He said the protesters wanted "to undermine the existence of the State of Israel—what they call the catastrophe that needs to be corrected."

    Israelis Fight Off Protesters at Borders

  • The nature of this catastrophe is always vague, but usually begins with homelessness, then explores the nether regions of destitution.

    "Mirror, mirror, where's the crystal palace?"

  • Sarkozy told reporters the images of the disaster have stirred great emotions in France and said his government is prepared to send teams of aid workers to help in what he called a catastrophe that apparently is without precedent.

    World Leaders Offer Sympathy, Assistance to Quake-Ravaged Japan

  • Anyway, according to that press release, the catastrophe is the result of a conjunction of factors such as bad numbers, bad feelings … I think it is just too much to explore such a tragedy in this way.

    Global Voices in English » Air Bus AF 447: Sorrow, lack of information and sensationalism

  • Whether this catastrophe is actually provoked by the increasingly depressed people of the Third World themselves, or whether their misery is used by other power blocs, with different ideologies, does not matter very much, for it will be the end of our world as we know it.

    The Third World

  • In November that incident occurred which he calls the catastrophe of his life.

    Critical Miscellanies (Vol. 3 of 3) Essay 5: On Pattison's Memoirs

  • Israeli troops opened fire at three border locations to try to prevent crowds of protesters from crossing, killing at least 13 people, on the day Palestinians annually mark what they term the "catastrophe" of Israel's founding in 1948.

    Reuters: Top News

  • The word catastrophe, derived from Greek, translates roughly as "an overturning."

    The Globe and Mail - Home RSS feed

  • He also at one point said he disagreed with the utility's media staff editing out the word "catastrophe" in referring to it.

  • This month, the center began running what it calls catastrophe studies to predict the consequences of an automaker's failure.


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  • Etymologically: kata-strophe, a down-turning.

    September 7, 2009