catastrophe

A catastrophe is a disaster. If a wedding reception is disrupted by a fistfight between the bride and her new mother-in-law, you could call the occasion a catastrophe.

Catastrophe comes from a Greek word meaning "overturn." It originally referred to the disastrous finish of a drama, usually a tragedy. The definition was extended to mean "any sudden disaster" in the 1700s. Nowadays, catastrophe can be used to refer to very tragic events as well as more minor ones. A hurricane destroying hundreds of homes is certainly a catastrophe; baking a birthday cake without following a recipe might also result in catastrophe, if you don't know anything about cooking.

Definitions of catastrophe
  1. noun
    a sudden violent change in the earth's surface
    synonyms: cataclysm
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    types:
    nuclear winter
    a long period of darkness and extreme cold that scientists predict would follow a full-scale nuclear war; a layer of dust and smoke in the atmosphere would cover the earth and block the rays of the sun; most living organisms would perish
    type of:
    geological phenomenon
    a natural phenomenon involving the structure or composition of the earth
  2. noun
    an event resulting in great loss and misfortune
    synonyms: calamity, cataclysm, disaster, tragedy
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    types:
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    act of God, force majeure, inevitable accident, unavoidable casualty, vis major
    a natural and unavoidable catastrophe that interrupts the expected course of events
    apocalypse
    a cosmic cataclysm in which God destroys the ruling powers of evil
    famine
    a severe shortage of food (as through crop failure) resulting in violent hunger and starvation and death
    kiss of death
    something that is ruinous
    meltdown
    a disaster comparable to a nuclear meltdown
    plague
    any large scale calamity (especially when thought to be sent by God)
    visitation
    any disaster or catastrophe
    tidal wave
    an unusual (and often destructive) rise of water along the seashore caused by a storm or a combination of wind and high tide
    tsunami
    a cataclysm resulting from a destructive sea wave caused by an earthquake or volcanic eruption
    the Great Calamity, the Great Hunger, the Great Starvation, the Irish Famine
    a famine in Ireland resulting from a potato blight; between 1846 and 1851 a million people starved to death and 1.6 million emigrated (most to America)
    type of:
    bad luck, misfortune
    unnecessary and unforeseen trouble resulting from an unfortunate event
  3. noun
    a state of extreme (usually irremediable) ruin and misfortune
    “lack of funds has resulted in a catastrophe for our school system”
    synonyms: disaster
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    type of:
    adversity, hard knocks, hardship
    a state of misfortune or affliction
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