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69 alternatives to the word “disaster”

01 Jun, 2020 Writing and layout

A wildly misused word is “disaster.” (“Crisis” is another similarly misused word, but that’s the subject of other discussions.)

“Disaster” is used in the public arena to describe almost any negative situation. News media and social media use it to exaggerate, especially where images are available to dramatize. Common use of the word today is in phrases like “social media disaster,” “PR disaster,” and so on. It is also used to exaggerated effect in sentences like “His presentation today was a disaster” and “Her clothes sense is a disaster.”

The English language offers many alternatives to “disaster” and “disastrous.” Using some of these will add color to your content. To help you avoid disastrous overuse of the word, here is a list of 69 alternatives. Please note that some of the words are not necessarily direct synonyms, but can be used to more accurately describe various unfortunate situations:

  1. accident
  2. adversity
  3. affliction
  4. bad news
  5. bane
  6. bitter pill
  7. blight
  8. blow
  9. breakdown
  10. break up
  11. bust
  12. cataclysm
  13. calamity
  14. casualty
  15. catastrophe
  16. collapse
  17. collision
  18. crash
  19. crushing
  20. danger
  21. debacle
  22. defeat
  23. depression
  24. destructive
  25. disheartening
  26. dire
  27. downfall
  28. emergency
  29. eruption
  30. failure
  31. fall
  32. farce
  33. fiasco
  34. flop
  35. frightful
  36. grief
  37. hardship
  38. harm
  39. hazard
  40. horrendous
  41. incident (suggested by Jasmine)
  42. mess
  43. misery
  44. mischance
  45. misfortune
  46. mishap
  47. misadventure
  48. misfortune
  49. pathetic
  50. ravaging
  51. reverse
  52. rough
  53. ruin
  54. ruination
  55. ruinous
  56. setback
  57. shambles
  58. shock
  59. slip
  60. staggering blow
  61. strife
  62. tragedy
  63. trouble
  64. undoing
  65. upheaval
  66. upset
  67. washout
  68. woe
  69. wrack and ruin

My acknowledgment to dedicated word lover, Laura Hale Brockway, who wrote an initial list of 50 alternative words to “disaster.”

About the author Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison loves sharing actionable ideas and information about professional communication and business management. He has wide experience as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer, and CEO of a non-profit organization. Kim is a Fellow and former national board member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, and he ran his State’s professional development program for 7 years, helping many practitioners to strengthen their communication skills. People from 115 countries benefit from the practical knowledge shared in his monthly newsletter and in the eBooks available from cuttingedgepr.com.

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