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of the nature of a catastrophe, or disastrous event; calamitous:
a catastrophic failure of the dam.
Contemporary Examples

Clean water is increasingly scarce, even as catastrophic floods are more common.
Pakistan’s Impossible Year: Elections, Army Intrigue, and More Bruce Riedel December 28, 2012

In the real world, foreign policy often consists of helping to broker outcomes that are merely bad, not catastrophic.
Egypt Policy Shows How Well Obama Has Managed America’s Decline Peter Beinart July 1, 2012

For Iran, any real spread of tensions to the border would be catastrophic.
Iran Police Chief: Tehran Could Intervene in Iraq to Protect Shia Shrines IranWire June 11, 2014

First of all, most of the catastrophic job losses affecting men actually occurred while President Bush was still in office.
Mitt Romney’s ‘92 Percent’ Lie: There He Goes Again Leslie Bennetts April 15, 2012

Now the catastrophic rollout of the health law threatens instead to reinforce those doubts.
Can Obama Change? Michael Tomasky November 14, 2013

Historical Examples

catastrophic noises resounded in the loft; volcanoes seemed to romp upon the stairway.
Penrod Booth Tarkington

Almost all social prediction is catastrophic and absurdly simplified.
A Preface to Politics Walter Lippmann

This change of the point of view was, of course, not abrupt or catastrophic.
The Place of Science in Modern Civilisation and Other Essays Thorstein Veblen

To Louise, the loss of her holy place, but yet more the manner of its loss, was catastrophic.
Regiment of Women Clemence Dane

It might mean permanent, hopeless, catastrophic dislocation.
Marriage H. G. Wells


1824, from catastrophe + -ic. Related: Catastrophical; catastrophically.


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  • Catastrophic reaction

    catastrophic reaction catastrophic reaction cat·a·stroph·ic reaction (kāt’ə-strŏf’ĭk) n. Disorganized behavior due to a severe shock or threatening situation with which the person cannot cope.

  • Catastrophical

    a sudden and widespread disaster: the catastrophe of war. any misfortune, mishap, or failure; fiasco: The play was so poor our whole evening was a catastrophe. a final event or conclusion, usually an unfortunate one; a disastrous end: the great catastrophe of the Old South at Appomattox. (in a drama) the point at which the […]

  • Catastrophically

    of the nature of a catastrophe, or disastrous event; calamitous: a catastrophic failure of the dam. Contemporary Examples The Thunder have now punished themselves with two catastrophically dunderheaded late-game fouls in two games. Miami Heat’s Victory Over OKC Thunder in Game 4 Signals Shorter Series Jesse Singal June 19, 2012 Flo was not just mediocre: […]

  • Catastrophism

    the doctrine that certain vast geological changes in the earth’s history were caused by catastrophes rather than gradual evolutionary processes. Historical Examples catastrophism and uniformitarianism are opposite extremes which must be combined and reconciled. Appletons’ Popular Science Monthly, February 1900 Various catastrophism, a short-sighted teleology, and a still more short-sighted orthodoxy, joined forces to crush […]

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