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[dey-bah-kuh l, -bak-uh l, duh-] /deɪˈbɑ kəl, -ˈbæk əl, də-/
a general breakup or dispersion; sudden downfall or rout:
The revolution ended in a debacle.
a complete collapse or failure.
a breaking up of ice in a river.
Compare embacle.
a violent rush of waters or ice.
Origin of debacle
1795-1805; < French débâcle, derivative of débâcler to unbar, clear, equivalent to dé- dis-1 + bâcler to bar ≪ Latin baculum stick, rod
2. disaster, ruin, fiasco, catastrophe, calamity. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for debacle
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Then more trees came smashing through, followed by muddy tides of driftwood, and as suddenly the debacle ceased.

    Wunpost Dane Coolidge
  • The debacle of Russia was ever before the eyes of these nations.

    With the Doughboy in France Edward Hungerford
  • It hardly occurred to him to speculate that anyone might be left alive on the scene of the debacle.

    World of the Drone Robert Abernathy
  • Some place in that debacle there lay his own responsibility.

    Dangerous Days Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • How long would it be before we reached this stage of debacle?

    Our Elizabeth Florence A. Kilpatrick
British Dictionary definitions for debacle


/deɪˈbɑːkəl; dɪ-/
a sudden disastrous collapse or defeat, esp one involving a disorderly retreat; rout
the breaking up of ice in a river during spring or summer, often causing flooding
a violent rush of water carrying along debris
Word Origin
C19: from French débâcle, from Old French desbacler to unbolt, ultimately from Latin baculum rod, staff
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 debacle

"disaster," 1848, from French débâcle "downfall, collapse, disaster" (17c.), a figurative use, literally "breaking up (of ice on a river)," extended to the violent flood that follows when the river ice melts in spring; from débâcler "to free," from Middle French desbacler "to unbar," from des- "off" + bacler "to bar," from Vulgar Latin *bacculare, from Latin baculum "stick" (see bacillus). Sense of "disaster" was present in French before English borrowed the word.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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