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[kuh-tas-truh-fee] /kəˈtæs trə fi/
a sudden and widespread disaster:
the catastrophe of war.
any misfortune, mishap, or failure; fiasco:
The play was so poor our whole evening was a catastrophe.
a final event or conclusion, usually an unfortunate one; a disastrous end:
the great catastrophe of the Old South at Appomattox.
(in a drama) the point at which the circumstances overcome the central motive, introducing the close or conclusion; dénouement.
Geology. a sudden, violent disturbance, especially of a part of the surface of the earth; cataclysm.
Also called catastrophe function. Mathematics. any of the mathematical functions that describe the discontinuities that are treated in catastrophe theory.
Origin of catastrophe
1570-80; < Greek katastrophḗ an overturning, akin to katastréphein to overturn. See cata-, strophe
Related forms
[kat-uh-strof-ik] /ˌkæt əˈstrɒf ɪk/ (Show IPA),
catastrophical, catastrophal, adjective
supercatastrophe, noun
1. misfortune, calamity. 1, 3. See disaster.
1, 3. triumph. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for catastrophe
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Notwithstanding this catastrophe, the five guns opposed to the Revenge continued their fire, and kept it up to the last.

  • Had Mrs. Bines been above talking to low people, a catastrophe might have been averted.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • Within he was sickened with the sense of a catastrophe; outside he remained calm and confident to the eye.

    The Snow-Burner Henry Oyen
  • Such a journey seemed like a catastrophe in his calm existence.

    The Dream Emile Zola
  • We are now to notice this further determining factor in catastrophe as it applied itself to Halifax.

    Catastrophe and Social Change Samuel Henry Prince
British Dictionary definitions for catastrophe


a sudden, extensive, or notable disaster or misfortune
the denouement of a play, esp a classical tragedy
a final decisive event, usually causing a disastrous end
Also called cataclysm. any sudden and violent change in the earth's surface caused by flooding, earthquake, or some other rapid process
Derived Forms
catastrophic (ˌkætəˈstrɒfɪk) adjective
catastrophically, adverb
Word Origin
C16: from Greek katastrophē, from katastrephein to overturn, from strephein to turn
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 catastrophe

1530s, "reversal of what is expected" (especially a fatal turning point in a drama), from Latin catastropha, from Greek katastrophe "an overturning; a sudden end," from katastrephein "to overturn, turn down, trample on; to come to an end," from kata "down" (see cata-) + strephein "turn" (see strophe). Extension to "sudden disaster" is first recorded 1748.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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