Definition of havoc in English:



  • 1[mass noun] Widespread destruction.

    ‘the hurricane ripped through Florida causing havoc’
    • ‘Heavy rains and rising water are wreaking havoc across Europe.’
    • ‘The AIDS epidemic is wreaking havoc in sub-Saharan Africa.’
    • ‘But the championship got off to an inauspicious start with the tsunami wreaking havoc on the Kollam coast on the inaugural day.’
    • ‘For the second time that morning the capricious wind was wreaking havoc.’
    • ‘Man-made destruction seems easier to understand and explain than indiscriminate natural havoc.’
    • ‘Ivan tore through Grenada last year, wreaking havoc and taking with it lives, homes and livestock.’
    • ‘Yesterday afternoon's heavy downpour and hail here caused havoc and widespread powercuts across the province.’
    • ‘A tornado is a funnel-shaped cloud that descends on land, creating havoc and destruction in its wake.’
    • ‘On that fateful night a disastrous landslide wreaked havoc on their scenic community.’
    • ‘Delta wreaked havoc in popular holiday destination islands, killing seven people and leaving a trail of mass destruction.’
    • ‘This division was also the site for catamaran carnage with the wind wreaking havoc in the 12-boat fleet.’
    • ‘Some of the worst storms on record lashed the North wreaking havoc on roads and flooding hundreds of homes.’
    • ‘Marcellus was struck down sick and incapacitated when a galactic storm struck the outer planets, creating destruction and havoc.’
    • ‘Drought is wreaking havoc in the Thanjavur belt of Tamil Nadu.’
    • ‘Opponents also fear GM crop technology could lead to new herbicide-resistant weeds, which could cause havoc in the countryside.’
    • ‘The disease was first noted in France in 1847, where it soon spread and caused widespread havoc to vineyards and wine quality.’
    • ‘With that, the fight broke loose, along with pure havoc and destruction.’
    • ‘It is obvious that if foxes were a serious threat to agriculture, half a million of them would cause devastation and havoc.’
    • ‘Windows have been smashed, paving pulled up, shop staff intimidated and telephone boxes destroyed as yobs caused havoc in the Thornhill area of the city.’
    • ‘Hail, when it crashes through to the surface can cause much damage, to the level of havoc even.’
    devastation, destruction, damage, desolation, depredation, despoliation, ruination, ruin, disaster, ravagement, waste, catastrophe
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    1. 1.1Great confusion or disorder.
      ‘if they weren't at school they'd be wreaking havoc in the streets’
      • ‘A notorious pyramid selling scam, which caused havoc among small communities on the Isle of Wight last year, has reared its ugly head in Scotland again.’
      • ‘Later came laws limiting working hours, forbidding child labour and other abuses, to curb the widespread social havoc.’
      • ‘At first, it seemed she didn't have a chance, with a horrible cold that wreaked havoc with her voice.’
      • ‘My mother-in-law is mentally ill and wreaking havoc on our marriage.’
      • ‘The black striped mussel has caused millions of dollars worth of damage to marine industries around the world, and can cause havoc for shipping.’
      • ‘But the group insists that the size of the development is too large for the conservation area and would bring traffic havoc to already congested lanes.’
      • ‘One easy-going and tolerant who could not understand fellow travellers who complained about her children wreaking havoc on a long train journey.’
      • ‘A series of lightning strikes in the North and the South-East have been wreaking havoc with supply.’
      • ‘Many people fear that if children weren't at school they be wreaking havoc in the streets all day.’
      • ‘Her family work as daily labourers and a day off can wreak havoc for the family's economy.’
      • ‘He said a gang of about 30 teenagers have been causing havoc for the past six months.’
      • ‘Since it was launched five weeks ago, several people have contacted the It's Your Call hotline to complain about teenage bikers wreaking havoc.’
      • ‘It appears that the beast has escaped, and is again wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting residents of Bucharest.’
      • ‘A number of school pupils and restaurant staff are being put in quarantine as the north west battles to stop the Sars virus wreaking havoc.’
      • ‘He stared at me, his intensely blue eyes wreaking havoc in my mind.’
      • ‘Off-road bikers wreaking havoc are being warned that police could soon have the power to confiscate their machines.’
      • ‘Sutton's police chief has pledged to make the borough the safest in London by waging war on career criminals and drug traders wreaking havoc in our communities.’
      • ‘We need to help consumers leap-frog the illegal downloading issues that have wreaked havoc on the music industry.’
      • ‘In this one, she's a scientist trying to deal with an enormous octopus wreaking havoc in San Francisco.’
      • ‘The novel deals with a small band of ‘radicals’ who try to stir up revolt in a small town and end up wreaking havoc.’
      disorder, chaos, disruption, mayhem, bedlam, pandemonium, turmoil, tumult, confusion, uproar
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[WITH OBJECT]archaic
  • Lay waste to; devastate.

    • ‘The lack of participants is associated to a large storm that havocked Latvia in January 2005 and uprooted and destroyed large forest areas.’
    • ‘In the year 2139 the world is havocked by a cataclysm of seismic activity.’
    lay waste, devastate, ruin, leave in ruins, destroy, wreak havoc on, leave desolate, level, raze, demolish, wipe out, wreck, damage
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  • play havoc with

    • Completely disrupt.

      ‘shift work plays havoc with the body clock’
      • ‘A massive winter storm across much of the eastern half of the nation is playing havoc with Christmas travel for millions of Americans.’
      • ‘Also, try not to skip meals - it plays havoc with your blood sugar levels, your emotions and your metabolism.’
      • ‘And I apologize for the disjointed, rambling nature of this post - the not smoking thing is really playing havoc with my mind.’
      • ‘Short days, long nights and the weather playing havoc with sport.’
      • ‘Frequently stopping to rest plays havoc with your body's temperature - and leaves you drenched in sweat.’
      • ‘Wildlife experts in Southampton say milder winters are playing havoc with the flowering patterns of plants - because they no longer have to wait for warmer spells in which to grow.’
      • ‘The body needs to adjust back to the lower altitude and greater supply of oxygen which somehow plays havoc with sleep.’
      • ‘Curiosity was playing havoc with my better judgment.’
      • ‘Manual labour obviously plays havoc with your digestive system.’
      • ‘The price of gas at the pumps is playing havoc with road-trip budgets.’
      disturb, disrupt, disorder, disorganize, disarrange, interfere with, upset, unsettle, convulse
      obstruct, impede, hamper
      hold up, delay, retard
      throw into confusion, throw into disorder, throw into disarray, cause confusion in, cause turmoil in, derange, turn upside-down, make a mess of
      ruin, wreck, spoil, undo, mar, frustrate, blight, crush, quell, quash, dash, scotch, shatter, devastate, demolish, sabotage
      mess up, screw up, louse up, foul up, make a hash of, do in, put paid to, put the lid on, put the kibosh on, stymie, queer, nix, banjax, blow a hole in
      scupper, dish, throw a spanner in the works of
      throw a monkey wrench in the works of
      euchre, cruel
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Late Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French havok, alteration of Old French havot, of unknown origin. The word was originally used in the phrase cry havoc ( Old French crier havot) to give an army the order havoc, which was the signal for plundering.