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”).
- IPA(key): /ˈhævək/
- (General Australian) IPA(key): /ˈhævək/, /ˈhævɪk/
- (General American) IPA(key): /ˈhævək/, /ˈhævɪk/
Audio (US) (file)
havoc (usually uncountable, plural havocs)
- Widespread devastation and destruction.
- 1712 (date written), [Joseph] Addison, Cato, a Tragedy. […], London: […] J[acob] Tonson, […], published 1713, →OCLC, Act I, scene i, page 1:
- Ye gods, what havoc does ambition make / Among your works!
- 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.
The noun havoc is most often used in the set phrase wreak havoc.
havoc (third-person singular simple present havocs, present participle havocking, simple past and past participle havocked)
- To pillage.
- 1599, William Shakespeare, “The Life of Henry the Fift”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene ii]:
- To tear and havoc more than she can eat.
- To cause havoc.
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.
- 1599 (first performance), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Iulius Cæsar”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act III, scene i]:
- Cry "havoc", and let slip the dogs of war!
- ^ Old Hungarian Goulash?, The Grammarphobia Blog, October 31, 2008