Pronunciation: (ku-tas'tru-fē), [key]
1. a sudden and widespread disaster: the catastrophe of war.
2. any misfortune, mishap, or failure; fiasco: The play was so poor our whole evening was a catastrophe.
3. a final event or conclusion, usually an unfortunate one; a disastrous end: the great catastrophe of the Old South at Appomattox.
4. (in a drama) the point at which the circumstances overcome the central motive, introducing the close or conclusion; dénouement. Cf. catastasis, epitasis, protasis.
5. Geol.a sudden, violent disturbance, esp. of a part of the surface of the earth; cataclysm.
6. Also called catas'trophe func"tion. Math.any of the mathematical functions that describe the discontinuities that are treated in catastrophe theory.
Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.