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[dev-uh-stey-ting] /ˈdɛv əˌsteɪ tɪŋ/
tending or threatening to devastate:
a devastating fire.
satirical, ironic, or caustic in an effective way:
a devastating portrayal of society.
Origin of devastating
1625-35; devastate + -ing2
Related forms
devastatingly, adverb
undevastating, adjective
undevastatingly, adverb


[dev-uh-steyt] /ˈdɛv əˌsteɪt/
verb (used with object), devastated, devastating.
to lay waste; render desolate:
The invaders devastated the city.
Synonyms: destroy, sack, despoil, raze, ruin, level.
Antonyms: create, erect, develop.
to overwhelm.
1625-35; < Latin dēvastātus laid waste (past participle of dēvastāre), equivalent to dē- de- + vast(āre) to lay waste (akin to vastus empty) + -ātus -ate1
Related forms
devastative, adjective
devastator, noun
undevastated, adjective
Synonym Study
1. See ravage. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for devastating
  • His decision has been devastating to our department.
  • When sea levels rise rapidly, as they have been doing, even a small increase can have devastating effects on coastal habitats.
  • More than nine months after the country's devastating earthquake, a cholera epidemic has sickened thousands.
  • All told, fishing, poaching and development can be devastating.
  • Pesticides can't stop the world's strongest, and arguably strangest looking, creature from devastating crops.
  • After the devastating storm, athletics officials cut several teams and struggled to rebuild severely damaged facilities.
  • For, small though the chance of a large asteroid hitting home might be, the consequences would be devastating.
  • Where toxic pollution and human habitation collide with devastating effects.
  • Schizophrenia has a devastating effect on all aspects of human thought, emotion, and expression.
  • If it happens for the first time when you're older, it can be devastating.
British Dictionary definitions for devastating


extremely effective in a destructive way: a devastating war, a devastating report on urban deprivation
Derived Forms
devastatingly, adverb


verb (transitive)
to lay waste or make desolate; ravage; destroy
to confound or overwhelm, as with grief or shock
Derived Forms
devastation, noun
devastative, adjective
devastator, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Latin dēvastāre, from de- + vastāre to ravage; related to vastus waste, empty
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 devastating

1630s, present participle adjective from devastate. Trivial use by 1889.



1630s, perhaps a back-formation from devastation. Apparently not common until 19c.; earlier verb form devast is attested from 1530s, from Middle French devaster. Related: devastated; devastating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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