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1. A violent upheaval that causes great destruction or brings about a fundamental change.
2. A violent and sudden change in the earth's crust.
3. A devastating flood.

[French cataclysme, from Latin cataclysmos, deluge, from Greek kataklusmos, from katakluzein, to inundate : kata-, intensive pref.; see cata- + kluzein, to wash away.]

cat′a·clys′mic (-klĭz′mĭk), cat′a·clys′mal (-klĭz′məl) adj.
cat′a·clys′mi·cal·ly adv.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Adj.1.cataclysmal - severely destructive; "cataclysmic nuclear war"; "a cataclysmic earthquake"
destructive - causing destruction or much damage; "a policy that is destructive to the economy"; "destructive criticism"


References in classic literature ?
After this season of congealed dampness came a spell of dry frost, when strange birds from behind the North Pole began to arrive silently on the upland of Flintcomb-Ash; gaunt spectral creatures with tragical eyes--eyes which had witnessed scenes of cataclysmal horror in inaccessible polar regions of a magnitude such as no human being had ever conceived, in curdling temperatures that no man could endure; which had beheld the crash of icebergs and the slide of snow-hills by the shooting light of the Aurora; been half blinded by the whirl of colossal storms and terraqueous distortions; and retained the expression of feature that such scenes had engendered.
In German schools today, the Holocaust is taught, and it is presented as a cataclysmal mistake.
Our moral obligation to stick to the safe emission budget (3) and thus to prevent dangerous climate change, rests on two arguments: the potentially cataclysmal consequences of climate change and the low costs of a second-order error.