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

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

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What does the word havoc mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English language and other dictionaries like American Heritage and Collins English Dictionary, the word havoc is a noun that can refer to great confusion or disorder, or some sort of wide and general destruction and devastation. It can also be used as a transitive verb to mean to lay waste or destroy. Different tenses can be formed by adding the suffixes ed and ing to form havocked and havocking. This word is frequently used in the phrases play havoc, raise havoc, wreak havoc, cry havoc, command havoc, and break havoc. This English word is considered proper English and English grammar, so you may see it in standardized tests like the TOEFL or SAT. The word havoc is two syllables – hav-oc, and the pronunciation of havoc isˈhævək. Try learning these definitions of havoc – you never know, it could become your new favorite word!

There are many different languages that use words that mean havoc. You may notice that some of these look similar to the English translation of havoc. These are called cognates, which are formed when words have a similar root or language of origin. This list of translations of havoc is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Irish: eirleach‎ (masc.)
  •  Russian: опустоше́ние‎ (neut.), разруше́ние‎ (neut.)
  •  Portuguese: destruição‎ (fem.), devastação‎ (fem.), ruína‎ (fem.)
  •  Spanish: estrago‎ (masc.)
  •  German: Zerstörung‎ (fem.)
  •  Bulgarian: опустошение‎ (neut.)
  •  Dutch: verwoesting‎ (fem.)
  •  Maori: aneatanga‎
  •  Hindi: नाश‎ (nāś)
  •  Polish: spustoszenie‎
  •  Italian: rovina‎ (fem.), distruzione‎ (fem.), strage‎ (fem.)
  •  Finnish: hävitys‎, tuho‎, vahinko‎

What are synonyms and antonyms of havoc?

There are a plethora of different words that can be used in place of the word havoc. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same definition as another word or phrase. Learning synonyms is a great way to expand your English language vocabulary and avoid repeating the same words and phrases often. The below list of synonyms of havoc is provided by Thesaurus.

  •  rack and ruin
  •  dilapidation
  •  disruption
  •  vandalism
  •  devastation
  •  calamity
  •  wreckage
  •  desolation
  •  mayhem
  •  disorder
  •  ravages
  •  shambles
  •  loss
  •  confusion
  •  ruination
  •  destruction
  •  damage
  •  plunder
  •  chaos
  •  wreck
  •  catastrophe
  •  despoiling
  •  cataclysm
  •  waste
  •  distress

There are also numerous different words that mean the opposite of havoc. These opposite words are called antonyms, which are also useful for expanding your English vocabulary. This list of antonyms is also provided by Thesaurus.

  •  peace
  •  tranquility
  •  restraint
  •  peacefulness
  •  serenity
  •  repose
  •  doldrums
  •  imperturbation
  •  quiet
  •  calm
  •  impassivity
  •  stillness
  •  silence
  •  patience
  •  peace of mind
  •  placidity
  •  lull
  •  hush
  •  dispassion
  •  rest
  •  stoicism
  •  calmness

What is the origin of the word havoc?

According to Etymonline, the word havoc hac been used since early 15c in the expression cry havoc, which was used to mean to give the signal to pillage. It was initially spelled as the Middle English havok. This comes from the Anglo-Norman and Anglo-French phrase crier havok, a 14c term. Havok, the term which was used to refer to the signal to soldiers to seize plunder, comes from the Middle French havot and variant of Old French havot which mean pillaging or looting. This is also used in the term crier havot. This is related to the French haver meaning to seize or grasp and the French hef meaning hook. These are probably from a Germanic origin or the Latin habere, which means to have or possess. This was first used to refer to devastation from the late 15c. 

How can the word havoc be used in a sentence?

The word havoc can be used in many different sentences in English. Below are several examples of havoc. 

The funnel-shaped tornado of capricious wind in Kansas and the earthquake in San Francisco caused havoc and left destruction in their wake. They did a great deal of damage to much of the city, and they had to spend years trying to repair the millions of dollars worth of damage from the indiscriminate natural havoc. 

The havoc at the New York theater was subdued by the police. A pack of foxes had made their den under the seats and one bore its ugly head during the show,  frightening the attendees. When it happened a second time, the theater knew they needed to do something.

The infestation of bugs wreaked havoc on the grape plants at the Northern California vineyards and vineyards in France which in turn affected the wine quality. This posed a serious threat to the business. 

The scam put on by the notorious pyramid scheme destroyed the credit of over 1000 people, wreaking havoc on their financial stability.

The SARS virus tore through the country, causing pure havoc. The scientist in Scotland on the Isle of Wight, Marcellus, worked as fast as she could to quarantine the victims and protect the small communities.

When the teenage bikers joined the road bikers, it caused an immense amount of havoc for the families. First it was motorcycles and slang words, next their schoolchildren would ditch the classroom. They became strict, forcing them to only speak ordinary English and not casual English, they limited their favorite TV shows and kept an eye on their search history.

The small human in the episode of the Big Bang Theory season two caused both havoc and humor according to the entertainment news report. 

There was widespread havoc in Florida after the black striped mussel and enormous octopus caused damage to the marine industries. They caused indiscriminate slaughter to the rest of the creatures.

A number of school pupils decided to contact the call hotline after they heard word of a boy bringing a gun to school to cause havoc.

Overall, the word havoc means great confusion or disorder, or widespread destruction. This is a noun or a verb and is of French and Germanic origin.


  1. havoc | Origin and meaning of havoc | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  2. HAVOC Synonyms: 40 Synonyms & Antonyms for HAVOC | Thesaurus 
  3. havoc: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  4. CALM Synonyms: 209 Synonyms & Antonyms for CALM | Thesaurus 
  5. Havoc | Definition of Havoc | Merriam-Webster