An earthquake, an oil spill, an economic collapse, a party with inedible food and truly awful music: Each of these could be described as a disaster, a cataclysmic event causing extreme suffering, even total destruction.

Disaster made its way into the English language from Greek. The second part of the word is derived from astron — "star" or "planet," familiar from words like astronomy and astronaut. Dis- is prefix with a meaning similar to "un-" or "mis-," but with clearly negative connotations. Translated literally, disaster means "bad or unlucky star," and it's a relic of a time when astrology was considered a serious science that could predict events — including disasters you might try to avoid — in your life on Earth!

Definitions of disaster

n an event resulting in great loss and misfortune

“the earthquake was a disaster
calamity, cataclysm, catastrophe, tragedy
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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
a cosmic cataclysm in which God destroys the ruling powers of evil
a severe shortage of food (as through crop failure) resulting in violent hunger and starvation and death
kiss of death
something that is ruinous
a disaster comparable to a nuclear meltdown
any large scale calamity (especially when thought to be sent by God)
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
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

n a state of extreme (usually irremediable) ruin and misfortune

“his policies were a disaster
Type of:
adversity, hard knocks, hardship
a state of misfortune or affliction

n an act that has disastrous consequences

Type of:
destruction, devastation
the termination of something by causing so much damage to it that it cannot be repaired or no longer exists

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