General English

General Science

  • noun a serious event causing deaths and/or great damage to the environment. Disasters are often classified as either natural, e.g. earthquakes, or man-made, e.g. oil spills.


  • noun a situation where a lot of people are killed or injured, or where a lot of damage is caused

Origin & History of “disaster”

The word disaster has astrological connotations. It comes, perhaps via French désastre, from Italian disastro; this was a back-formation from disastrato, literally ‘ill-starred’, a compound adjective formed from the pejorative prefix dis- and astro ‘star’, a descendant of Latin astrum ‘star’. This in turn came from Greek astron ‘star’, source of English astronomy and related to English star. So the underlying meaning of the word is ‘malevolent astral influence’. Provençal has the parallel malastre ‘misfortune’.