force majeure

A force majeure is a calamity that is beyond anyone's control and changes life in unpredictable ways. A tornado that devastates your town is a force majeure.

The noun force majeure is a French term that literally means "greater force" or "superior strength." It's no ordinary occurrence, but something that is overwhelming and unexpected, like a war, a hurricane, or an asteroid landing on your roof. It's also a legally valid excuse for not fulfilling an obligation or contract — everyone involved will agree that it was unavoidable.

Definitions of force majeure
  1. noun
    a natural and unavoidable catastrophe that interrupts the expected course of events
    synonyms: act of God, inevitable accident, unavoidable casualty, vis major
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    type of:
    calamity, cataclysm, catastrophe, disaster, tragedy
    an event resulting in great loss and misfortune
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