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[kat-uh-kliz-uh m] /ˈkæt əˌklɪz əm/
any violent upheaval, especially one of a social or political nature.
Physical Geography. a sudden and violent physical action producing changes in the earth's surface.
an extensive flood; deluge.
Origin of cataclysm
1625-35; < Late Latin cataclysmos (Vulgate) < Greek kataklysmós flood (akin to kataklýzein to flood), equivalent to kata- cata- + klysmós a washing
Can be confused
cataclysm, catechism.
1. See disaster. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for cataclysm
  • The immediate cause for this cataclysm was the recession.
  • One is that they formed along with the stars long ago, and somehow survived this cataclysm.
  • But the idea that you need to invent some convenient cataclysm to restore order seems foolhardy.
  • It's that once-in-a-lifetime cataclysm you can't possibly prepare for, because you could never predict it would happen.
  • Occasionally, landmark legislation arises from something less than a social cataclysm.
  • But it was certainly the setting of a cataclysm that came out of the skies: the arrival of a meteorite.
  • But that is not the case with the devastating economic cataclysm that lies ahead.
British Dictionary definitions for cataclysm


a violent upheaval, esp of a political, military, or social nature
a disastrous flood; deluge
(geology) another name for catastrophe (sense 4)
Derived Forms
cataclysmic, cataclysmal, adjective
cataclysmically, adverb
Word Origin
C17: via French from Latin, from Greek kataklusmos deluge, from katakluzein to flood, from kluzein to wash
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 cataclysm

1630s, from French cataclysme (16c.), from Latin cataclysmos or directly from Greek kataklysmos "deluge, flood, inundation," from kataklyzein "to deluge," from kata "down" (see cata-) + klyzein "to wash," from PIE *kleue- "to wash, clean" (see cloaca).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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