Definition of avalanche in English:



  • 1A mass of snow, ice, and rocks falling rapidly down a mountainside.

    ‘he was swept to his death by an avalanche in 1988’
    • ‘During interglacial periods the steep, unstable U-shaped valley sides are subject to mass movements such as rock falls and large rock avalanches.’
    • ‘There have been reports where this dog will change direction or position for no apparent reason, seconds before an avalanche of ice and snow come hurtling down a mountainside.’
    • ‘Figure 2 shows a mass erosional feature that we interpret as a rockslide, or rock avalanche.’
    • ‘On their descent they were hit by a huge avalanche of massive rocks of snow.’
    • ‘Again we notice the ragged effect of massive snow avalanches.’
    • ‘Although the frequency of avalanches is smaller in comparison to the Alps, the plants are still exposed to heavy snow and avalanches.’
    • ‘Find a simple wind that sails your mind and body to Denver, Colorado; don't even think about the avalanches of mountain snow.’
    • ‘The team confirms that the slide was the result of a snow avalanche from a ridge top, which triggered both a flood and debris flow.’
    • ‘Red light carved vast craters in the mountainside, and avalanches thundered down the sheer sides.’
    • ‘The blast caused an avalanche of rocks and dust, definitely stopping the pursuit.’
    • ‘The word avalanche is derived from a Swiss word meaning ‘descent to the valley’, and it can refer to snow, ice, rock or rubble.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, several snow avalanches across northern Pakistan have killed more than 80 people.’
    • ‘The entire northern flank of the mountain collapses and falls as an avalanche lowering the height of the mountain by 1,500 feet.’
    • ‘Yes, there are large rock avalanches that accompany volcanoes and they can travel a long way.’
    • ‘First, most snow avalanches, other than extremely small ones, are violent affairs that snap bones and slam people into trees and rocks like a nightmare whitewater ride.’
    • ‘An avalanche roaring down a mountainside may seem to be wildly out of control, but actually it is governed by certain equations.’
    • ‘Then, way up on the mountain, a little avalanche fell.’
    • ‘Sporadic systems are those that produce avalanches, earthquakes, mudslides, volcanic eruptions and such like.’
    • ‘Only on a mountain can you experience avalanches of snow or rock.’
    • ‘On 1 January 1992, the day on which I survived falling into a crevasse and being almost buried in an avalanche, my tears had fallen onto the rocks and snow.’
    snowslide, snow slip
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A large mass of mud or other material moving rapidly downhill.
      ‘an avalanche of mud’
      • ‘In this case, it is possible that the channel-forming fluid has removed some material deposited in the avalanche.’
      • ‘They were not quick enough to escape the sudden underwater avalanches during the Flood, and paid the price.’
      • ‘In Walhalla, an old gold-mining town in a narrow valley, disaster struck on the Tuesday night as an avalanche of water, rocks, silt and logs swept down over the town.’
      • ‘Heavy rains during summer thunderstorms, however, can trigger sudden avalanches of wet sand, called debris flows.’
      • ‘Even scarier and more destructive than volcanic mudflows are pyroclastic flows or glowing avalanches.’
      • ‘The force caused a small avalanche of dirt to fall down, nearly landing the girl.’
      • ‘The chain of living creatures maintains an overall balance despite the constant impact of extinctions, changes of habitat, disease and disaster, that conspire to create local avalanches.’
      • ‘They suggest that fish are very rare in Cambrian and Ordovician rocks because they were active swimmers and could generally escape from the underwater avalanches.’
      • ‘Rescuers are trying to recover the bodies of an estimated 100 people buried under an avalanche of mud in a little village just near Mumbai.’
      • ‘The materials were loose and there were avalanches.’
      • ‘Episodic emplacement of several debris avalanches into the sea will also contribute to the large input of volcanoclastic material into the sea.’
      • ‘An avalanche of mud and rubbish crashed down upon a group of more than 100 shacks and huts, which were home to around 800 families.’
      • ‘Cannon-like, highly explosive eruptions in January and March 1974 threw out large quantities of ash as a column into the atmosphere, and as avalanches flowing down the cone's sides.’
      • ‘They didn't spend long in there, possibly due to fear of sudden movements causing an avalanche.’
  • 2A sudden arrival or occurrence of something in overwhelming quantities.

    ‘we have had an avalanche of applications for the post’
    • ‘Most stereotypes have a very slight basis in reality, but by overwhelming them with an avalanche of complete nonsense any meaning they have will be lost.’
    • ‘With that he scooped his young daughter up in his arms, amidst a sudden avalanche of giggles, and put her to bed with her brothers.’
    • ‘There will be an avalanche of applications, much greater than what the Government expects.’
    • ‘The problem is that many of us cannot find this place of inner peace and stillness, and so the sacred is lost in an overwhelming avalanche of noise and confusion.’
    • ‘I have had a sudden avalanche of e-mails, just at a time when I'm struggling to finish a script.’
    • ‘In the southern zone, where some 85 prisoners remain under British control, the sudden avalanche of allegations can hardly improve what is becoming an increasingly tense situation.’
    • ‘Suddenly there was an avalanche of theories designed to explain the rise in crime that had previously been denied.’
    • ‘Morgan's head spins from the sudden avalanche of words.’
    • ‘We all know during festive seasons such as Christmas the children will be deluged by an avalanche of toys.’
    • ‘Wave after wave of panic swept over me like an avalanche and my mind tried to reconcile what I was seeing in front of me with some kind of logical thought.’
    • ‘His own punches at times found a target, only to be rocked with an avalanche of blows in retaliation.’
    • ‘First of all, we suddenly got an avalanche of speculation: Were these suicide bombers?’
    • ‘Only 25 will be available this season, as even Ski Scotland doesn't believe there will be an avalanche of applications.’
    • ‘The technology avalanche often leaves her feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and exhausted.’
    • ‘As can be seen from Box 4.1, the end of the Cold War triggered a near avalanche of applications - mostly from former Warsaw Pact members.’
    • ‘The core of the intelligence business is not gathering information but collating it: finding meaningful patterns in an unending avalanche of data.’
    • ‘A sudden avalanche of selling by these parties at current depressed prices amid rising global demand and commodity prices makes little sense.’
    • ‘My husband and I were wandering through the city one slow summer Saturday, when suddenly there was an avalanche of music, colour, satin, sequins, balloons and feathers.’
    • ‘But once the messages descend I remain overwhelmed by the avalanche of letters, information, bulletins and, of course, junk email.’
    • ‘There will even be antennae attached to lamp-posts in major cities to cope with the expected avalanche of radio waves.’
    barrage, volley
    View synonyms
  • 3Physics
    A cumulative process in which a fast-moving ion or electron generates further ions and electrons by collision.

    • ‘In an instant, an avalanche of electrons is rolling over the surface in a catastrophic flashover.’
    • ‘It's like an electron avalanche, he says, that can flood up toward the ionosphere or slide earthward, depending on the electric field direction.’
    • ‘These very intense fields in very low-pressure conditions generate an avalanche of electrons on to metals that can become destructive and cause losses in heavy investment.’
    • ‘If the density of Rydberg atoms was high enough for two of them to collide, the free electron from that collision would trigger an avalanche that ionized the rest of the Rydberg atoms.’
    • ‘Then, the process quickly sparks an electron avalanche vaporizing everything within the laser spot.’


[no object]
  • 1(of a mass of snow, ice, etc.) descend rapidly down a mountainside.

    • ‘Inspecting two memorial plaques bolted to rocks in the Kola's compact Khibiny Mountains, our guide announced, ‘This one is for four skiers, killed when the slope below us avalanched.’’
    • ‘Behind all this, walls of square-cut ice rose in cracked columns that avalanched regularly, sometimes bringing down a 30m-wide face.’
    • ‘The whole upper headwall is avalanching and is loaded with snow right now.’
    • ‘Tonnes of earth ripped away from the hillside on either side of their house and avalanched down to the sea in September.’
    • ‘The Brooks Range was treacherous in winter; whole mountainsides avalanched, and storms brewed up in mere minutes.’
    • ‘A weak layer that formed in mid-November 1996 in British Columbia, Canada was responsible for avalanching in the Rocky, Columbia, and Coast Mountain ranges.’
    • ‘To Angus it looked as though the North slope of the ridge was ready to crumble and avalanche into the corrie below.’
    • ‘Strewn all about are huge avalanched boulders, like the play toys of giants.’
    • ‘There were signs of avalanching in every direction and at almost every altitude.’
    • ‘I heard the tumble of the coals as they avalanched down into the smoldering pit.’
    • ‘The snow had recently avalanched, so only surface hoar is thawing.’
    • ‘Around the bays, the continent's ancient ice-cap creeps inexorably down to the sea in shelves that crack and avalanche with the sound of howitzer blasts.’
    • ‘In all cases, the sound seems to be triggered by sand avalanching down the sides.’
    • ‘He turned on his headlamp and discovered that the tent had collapsed under avalanched snow; his head was being crushed.’
    • ‘The mouth of the corrie gives a view of the cliffs and the distinctive feature of a massive rock slab, which is covered by snow in winter and is prone to avalanche.’
    • ‘The quake struck close to the rumbling Mount Merapi, and soon after a large burst of hot clouds and debris avalanched two miles down its western flank, spreading fears of a major eruption.’
    1. 1.1with object Engulf or carry off by an avalanche.
      ‘the climbers were avalanched down the south face of the mountain’
      • ‘Even when he's not mountaineering, Ward's life has always been avalanched with adrenaline.’
      • ‘He came to Boston and I heard he was from The Cars and they just avalanched the whole industry for like 10 years.’
      • ‘The fourth wave avalanched us both off the jet ski.’
      • ‘Be careful out there, we were avalanched yesterday, and now I'm out of commission for at least a month with a sprained or broken ankle.’
      • ‘That way you've got one more thing in your favor if you get avalanched.’
      • ‘I came to the conclusion that I was in for the run of my life or I was going to be avalanched.’
      • ‘I was avalanched in this corrie a number of years ago and, while the bruises have healed, the memory is still painful.’
      • ‘Camp 1 was avalanched at 5 a.m.’
      • ‘Four climbers had 'a lucky escape' when they were avalanched while climbing.’
      • ‘Its hidden aggression avalanches the player, so he has to use his best skill and aptitude.’
      • ‘They were having lots of security system updates that were slowing the system down, and then everyone avalanched them at the last minute.’
      • ‘Six course members from Plas-y-Brenin were avalanched in Cinderella Gully.’
      • ‘Often, the government does nothing until it is avalanched with negative press coverage.’
      • ‘You need to escape but can't; avalanched under a mount of missed deadlines & final demands.’
      • ‘A million emotions avalanched them.’
      • ‘The latest pop single is avalanching the radio stations and it will be presented to wider audiences on Wednesday at the National Palace of Culture.’
  • 2Physics
    Undergo a rapid increase in conductivity due to an avalanche process.

    • ‘When they reach the tip, the avalanching electrons cancel the positive charge there.’
    • ‘The avalanching electrons move toward the anode, causing the applied voltage to collapse in picoseconds.’
    • ‘The avalanching electrons, in turn, intensify the ionization immediately surrounding the wire.’
    • ‘Some of the avalanched electrons will travel through the thin oxide of the diode region.’
    • ‘Avalanching electrons bombard the surface.’


Late 18th century: from French, alteration of the Alpine dialect word lavanche (of unknown origin), influenced by avaler ‘descend’; compare with Italian valanga.