From Middle English havok, havyk, from Old French havok in the phrase crier havok (“cry havoc”) a signal to soldiers to seize plunder, from Old French crier (“cry out, shout”) + havot (“pillaging, looting”), of obscure origin. Probably from a derivative of Old French *haf, hef (“hook”), from Frankish *haf, *habbjā, *happjā (“pruning-hook, scythe”), derived from Proto-Germanic *habjaną (“to take up, lift”), related to Old French havee (“handful”), Old French havet (“pruning-hook”), Old High German habba, heppa (“pruning-hook, scythe”), modern German Hippe (“billhook”). If so, then also related to English heave and doublet of hatchet.
- IPA(key): /ˈhævək/
- (General Australian) IPA(key): /ˈhævək/, /ˈhævɪk/
- (General American) IPA(key): /ˈhævək/, /ˈhævɪk/
Audio (US) (file)
- Widespread devastation and destruction.
- 1918, Edgar Rice Burroughs, The People that Time Forgot, HTML edition, The Gutenberg Project, published 2008:
- But when I had come to that part of the city which I judged to have contained the relics I sought I found havoc that had been wrought there even greater than elsewhere.
As with other verbs ending in vowel + -c, the gerund-participle is sometimes spelled havocing, and the preterite and past participle is sometimes spelled havoced; for citations using these spellings, see their respective entries. However, the spellings havocking and havocked are far more common. Compare panic, picnic.
- A cry in war as the signal for indiscriminate slaughter.
- c. 1608–1609 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedy of Coriolanus”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, (please specify the act number in uppercase Roman numerals, and the scene number in lowercase Roman numerals):
- Do not cry havoc, where you should but hunt / With modest warrant.