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”).
- 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 606515358, (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.