cry havoc


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,
to create confusion or disorder in: The wind played havoc with the papers on the desk.
to destroy; ruin: The bad weather played havoc with our vacation plans.

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

havocker, noun

1. desolation, waste. See ruin. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
havoc (ˈhævək)
1.  destruction; devastation; ruin
2.  informal confusion; chaos
3.  archaic cry havoc to give the signal for pillage and destruction
4.  (often foll by with) play havoc to cause a great deal of damage, distress, or confusion (to)
vb , -ocs, -ocking, -ocked
5.  archaic (tr) to lay waste
[C15: from Old French havot pillage, probably of Germanic origin]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1419, from Anglo-Fr. havok in phrase crier havok "cry havoc" (1385), a signal to soldiers to seize plunder, from O.Fr. havot "plundering, devastation" (fr. avoir), from a Gmc. source (see hawk (n.)), or from L. habere "to have, possess." General sense of "devastation" first recorded c.1480.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

cry havoc

Sound an alarm or warning, as in In his sermon the pastor cried havoc to the congregation's biases against gays. The noun havoc was once a command for invaders to begin looting and killing the defenders' town. Shakespeare so used it in Julius Caesar (3:1): "Cry 'Havoc' and let slip the dogs of war." By the 19th century the phrase had acquired its present meaning.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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