9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[hav-uh k] /ˈhæv ək/
great destruction or devastation; ruinous damage.
verb (used with object), havocked, havocking.
to work havoc upon; devastate.
verb (used without object), havocked, havocking.
to work havoc:
The fire havocked throughout the house.
cry havoc, to warn of danger or disaster.
play havoc with,
  1. to create confusion or disorder in:
    The wind played havoc with the papers on the desk.
  2. to destroy; ruin:
    The bad weather played havoc with our vacation plans.
Origin of havoc
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English havok < Anglo-French (in phrase crier havok to cry havoc, i.e., utter the command havoc! as signal for pillaging), Middle French havot in same sense < Germanic
Related forms
havocker, noun
1. desolation, waste. See ruin. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for havoc
  • Rats can wreak ecological havoc when introduced on a foreign island, decimating native bird and amphibian populations.
  • After a bout of the flu, lingering germs can wreak havoc on the weakened immune system.
  • Jet lag was playing havoc with my system.
  • It's all too easy to come up with a list of bugs that have wreaked havoc.
  • Dylan confused cicadas with locusts, which are chewing insects that can wreak havoc on crops.
  • It is well known that diabetes wreaks havoc on the vascular system.
  • Opponents of globalisation wreaked havoc at a big trade summit in Seattle this week.
  • Educators have long known that the summer break wreaks havoc on learning.
  • Lately, an unknown stapler thief has been wreaking havoc on our office.
  • Rain soon began to play havoc with the new clamps, swelling the iron and cracking the marble.
British Dictionary definitions for havoc


destruction; devastation; ruin
(informal) confusion; chaos
(archaic) cry havoc, to give the signal for pillage and destruction
(often foll by with) play havoc, to cause a great deal of damage, distress, or confusion (to)
verb -ocs, -ocking, -ocked
(transitive) (archaic) to lay waste
Word Origin
C15: from Old French havot pillage, probably of Germanic origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for havoc

early 15c., from Anglo-French havok in phrase crier havok "cry havoc" (late 14c.), a signal to soldiers to seize plunder, from Old French havot "pillaging, looting," related to haver "to seize, grasp," hef "hook," probably from a Germanic source (see hawk (n.)), or from Latin habere "to have, possess." General sense of "devastation" first recorded late 15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with havoc


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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