Alternative formsEdit



From Anglo-Norman 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).


havoc (usually uncountable, plural havocs)

  1. widespread devastation, destruction
    • Bible, Acts viii. 3
      As for Saul, he made havoc of the church.
    • Addison
      Ye gods, what havoc does ambition make / Among your works!
    • 1918, Edgar Rice Burroughs, The People that Time Forgot[1], 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.
  2. mayhem

Usage notesEdit

The noun havoc is most often used in the set phrase wreak havoc.[1]

Derived termsEdit



havoc (third-person singular simple present havocs, present participle havocking, simple past and past participle havocked)

  1. To pillage.
  2. To cause havoc.

Usage notesEdit

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.


  1. ^ Old Hungarian Goulash?, The Grammarphobia Blog, October 31, 2008



  1. A cry in war as the signal for indiscriminate slaughter.
    • Toone
      Do not cry havoc, where you should but hunt / With modest warrant.
    • Shakespeare
      Cry "havoc", and let slip the dogs of war!