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play havoc

Also, raise or wreak havoc . Disrupt, damage, or destroy something, as in The wind played havoc with her hair , or The fire alarm raised havoc with the children , or The earthquake wrought havoc in the town . The noun havoc was once used as a command for invaders to begin looting and killing, but by the 1800s the term was being used for somewhat less aggressive activities. For a synonym, see play the devil with
The American HeritageĀ® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright Ā© 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Examples from the Web for play havoc
Historical Examples
  • Slander, outright falsehood and misrepresentation will play havoc with his reputation.

  • At the end we were to play havoc with the rabbits, of which there were too many on the estate.

    Mauprat George Sand
  • While the advance of time was affecting Bettesworth himself, another influence had begun to play havoc with his environment.

    Memoirs of a Surrey Labourer George Sturt (AKA George Bourne)
  • But the elephants like it and play havoc by night in the green fields.

    Stanley in Africa James P. Boyd
  • It is frequently visited by furious gales, which play havoc with the steamers, many of which are annually wrecked.

  • Together they irregularize many verbs, and play havoc with vowels.

  • The fair Canadians make good use of the interval, and find it abundantly long to play havoc with the hearts of the other sex.

  • But much of this sort of thing will play havoc with them in the end.

    A Gallant Grenadier F.S. Brereton
  • Fever continued to play havoc with both natives and Europeans.

  • Then we saw to our sorrow that the gods had chosen to play havoc with his wits.

    Thelma Marie Corelli

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