Definition of catastrophe in US English:



  • 1An event causing great and often sudden damage or suffering; a disaster.

    ‘a national economic catastrophe’
    ‘leading the world to catastrophe’
    • ‘It did not take long for the general to recognize the catastrophe's politically damaging consequences.’
    • ‘The last two years were the hottest in recorded history, and recent wild weather patterns suggest that this global warming will bring with it an ever expanding plague of economic and human catastrophes.’
    • ‘The Caribbean may be in for a greater catastrophe if shelters used in the event of natural disasters are not properly constructed and located.’
    • ‘Had they been accepted we would have had a local environmental catastrophe and a national commercial disaster.’
    • ‘Last week's unprecedented events could have a far more profound effect on economic psychology than other catastrophes.’
    • ‘And without a change of policy, the winter snows will soon begin to tilt this disaster into an international catastrophe.’
    • ‘Four years ago, we experienced one of the biggest environmental catastrophes in our history, and nobody covered it.’
    • ‘Less than a year ago, buyers were bravely keeping the economy afloat, being valiant and refusing to be put off by scare stories about economic catastrophes.’
    • ‘Most regional geomorphological catastrophes involve the sudden release of large volumes of water.’
    • ‘Along with many other noble agencies, they are always at the forefront of the relief effort following calamities and catastrophes at local, national and international level.’
    • ‘Besides, economic catastrophes rarely occur in markets that everyone is watching and sweating over.’
    • ‘This'll be the second time that we can point to impacts coinciding with major extinction events and other catastrophes.’
    • ‘This would be a cautionary tale of catastrophes narrowly averted and environmental damage now emerging.’
    • ‘This event was a total catastrophe for the colonies that were left in total isolation, forced to survive alone.’
    • ‘Khan said the disasters and catastrophes that this country has been experiencing were signs that the people need to have a change of heart.’
    • ‘Collisions and environmental catastrophes can be more easily avoided with improved coordination and guidance of ship traffic.’
    • ‘They are profiting from increasing awareness that as the landfill and disposal space becomes scarcer, environmental catastrophes of ‘poisoned land’ become more documented.’
    • ‘Today, the environmental catastrophes of history are repeated almost everywhere on the planet, on an unprecedented scale.’
    • ‘Before this year of disasters even began, it was heralded by a natural catastrophe as sudden and violent as anything that followed.’
    • ‘If released into the air it could cause an environmental catastrophe similar to the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear station in Ukraine in 1986.’
    disaster, calamity, cataclysm, crisis, holocaust, ruin, ruination, tragedy, blow, shock
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 The denouement of a drama, especially a classical tragedy.
      • ‘This is an old insight, of course - as old as the domestic catastrophes of classical Greek drama.’


Mid 16th century (in the sense ‘denouement’): from Latin catastropha, from Greek katastrophē ‘overturning, sudden turn’, from kata- ‘down’ + strophē ‘turning’ (from strephein ‘to turn’).