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From French cataclysme, from Latin cataclysmus, from Ancient Greek κατακλυσμός (kataklusmós, deluge, flood), from κατακλύζω (kataklúzō, to dash over, flood, deluge, inundate), from κατά (katá, downwards, towards) + κλύζω (klúzō, to wash off, to wash away, to dash over).


  • IPA(key): /ˈkætəˌklɪzm̩/
  • (file)


cataclysm (plural cataclysms)

  1. A sudden, violent event.
    • 2007, Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine, Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, →ISBN, page 427:
      While the disaster capitalism complex does not deliberately scheme to create cataclysms on which it feeds (though Iraq may be a notable exception), there is plenty of evidence that its component industries work very hard indeed to make that current disastrous trends continue unchallenged.
    • 2008, BioWare, Mass Effect (Science Fiction), Redwood City: Electronic Arts, →ISBN, →OCLC, PC, scene: Altaaya Codex entry:
      Judging by the sedimentary composition of the crust, it appears that Altaaya once possessed an atmosphere thick enough to support some form of liquid. What cataclysm stripped the atmosphere and left the planet to freeze is not currently known.
  2. (geology) A sudden and violent change in the earth's crust.
  3. A great flood.

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