The Meaning of Debacle: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of debacle? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word debacle, including its definition, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word debacle mean? 

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language as well as American Heritage and Collins English Dictionary, the word debacle (pronunciation of debacle: ​dɪ bak l) is a noun that means some great disaster or complete failure. This can also be used specifically in ecology to refer to the tumultuous breakup of ice in a river which can lead to flooding from the ensuing rush of water. Finally, it can refer to some violent destruction. This word is commonly used in the English language to refer to some fiasco or terrible thing that has happened, but it does imply something less serious.

Different languages also contain words that mean debacle. You may notice that some of these words might sound or look like the word debacle. These are called cognates. Cognates are formed when two words have the same language of origin such as Latin or Greek, or the same root word. A cognate is when two words in different languages look and sound similar and also mean the same thing. This list of translations for the word debacle is provided by Word Sense, but you would also find some of these translations in a Spanish dictionary or German dictionary. 

  •  Russian: фиа́ско‎ (neut.)
  •  Finnish: fiasko‎, epäonnistuminen‎
  •  Spanish: debacle‎ (fem.), desastre‎ (masc.)
  •  Italian: fiasco‎ (masc.)
  •  Portuguese: fiasco‎ (masc.)
  •  Czech: debakl‎ (masc.)
  •  French: fiasco‎ (masc.), débâcle‎ (fem.)
  •  Swedish: debacle‎ (neut.)
  •  German: Debakel‎ (neut.)
  •  Dutch: verplettering‎ (fem.), fiasco‎ (neut.), debacle‎ (neut.)

What is the origin of the word debacle? 

According to Etymonline, the word debacle has been used since the year 1848. This comes from the Middle French débâcle, a 17th century word that is used figuratively. The French word literally means the breaking up of ice on some River or other body of water as a consequence of a rise in the water level. This is from the French débâcler, a verb meaning to free, from the earlier Old French desbacler, meaning to unbar. This is also seen in the Middle Dutch bakkelen and bakken. This comes from the prefix d​​​​​​é and the root bacler meaning to bar. This comes from the Vulgar Latin bacculāre, from the Latin baculum meaning stick. This is where we get the related word bacillus. This word has Indo-European roots. 

How can the word debacle be used in a sentence?

The word debacle can be used in many different sentences in the English language. Below are a number of examples of the word debacle. The word debacle is not considered casual nor is it considered formal, so it is appropriate to use this word in a variety of different circumstances, from a casual text message to a professional business email or formal letter. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today. Using words in a sentence is a great way to expand your vocabulary, and who knows? It might even become one of your new favorite words to use. 

It was quite the debacle when the man tried to replace his own roof – he faced many barriers and was left with a sudden disastrous collapse and debris all over the yard. He thought his wife would slaughter him, or give him a whipping, but she was just happy he was alright.

The violent collapse of the natural dam made of blocks of stone caused a debacle. A sudden flood of waters was overflowing the city in a massive thrashing deluge, turning dry land into an inundation of wetness.

The recent debacle left the politicians in a bind, securing the sound defeat of one of the candidates to the dismay of his fans.

It caused quite the debacle when the valedictorian was denied admission to Princeton University, but the class clown was accepted.

The father was left with quite the debacle when the toddler put glue in the lock of the door. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word debacle?

There are many different words in the English language that have the same meaning as the word debacle. These are called synonyms. Learning synonyms is a great way to expand your English language vocabulary, and learning them can also help you avoid repeating yourself in speech or writing. This list of synonyms for the word debacle is provided by Thesaurus.

  •  rout
  •  beating
  •  collapse
  •  devastation
  •  wreck
  •  failure
  •  trouncing
  •  catastrophe
  •  crack-up
  •  ruin
  •  disaster
  •  reversal
  •  shellacking
  •  crash
  •  drubbing
  •  defeasance
  •  defeat
  •  ruination
  •  blue ruin
  •  downfall
  •  vanquishment
  •  havoc
  •  breakdown
  •  dissolution
  •  washout
  •  licking
  •  overthrow
  •  smashup
  •  fiasco
  •  smash

There are also numerous words and phrases that mean the opposite of the word debacle. These opposite words are called antonyms. Learning antonyms is another great way to spend your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word debacle is also provided by Thesaurus

  •  prosperity
  •  lap of luxury
  •  boom
  •  arrival
  •  laugher
  •  benefit
  •  consummation
  •  realization
  •  do well
  •  walkaway
  •  gain
  •  fruition
  •  win
  •  profit
  •  fame
  •  easy street
  •  attainment
  •  clover
  •  reward
  •  grand slam
  •  fortune
  •  walkover
  •  ascendancy
  •  snap
  •  big hit
  •  advance
  •  sensation
  •  good times
  •  achievement
  •  happy days
  •  accomplishment
  •  flying colors
  •  maturation
  •  bed of roses
  •  hit
  •  victory
  •  eminence
  •  success
  •  triumph
  •  successfulness
  •  strike
  •  good luck
  •  savvy
  •  progress
  •  éclat
  •  gravy train
  •  killing
  •  happiness

Overall, the word debacle means some fiasco or ludicrous failure. It can also refer to the rising of a body of water or violent rush of waters that occurs when ice breaks up in a river, from incoming ships to harbour or otherwise. This early 19th century word comes from French and Latin roots. 


  1. debacle: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. DEBACLE Synonyms: 42 Synonyms & Antonyms for DEBACLE | Thesaurus
  3. SUCCESS Synonyms: 57 Synonyms & Antonyms for SUCCESS | Thesaurus 
  4. debacle | Origin and meaning of debacle | Online Etymology Dictionary
  5. Debacle | Definition of Debacle | Merriam-Webster