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To sound a warning or alarm of impending chaos, danger, or disaster. "Havoc" was originally a military order in the Middle Ages for soldiers to pillage and cause destruction; it features most famously in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: "Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war." The governor cried havoc as the protest became increasingly violent. With the hurricane approaching the city, officials cried havoc and urged citizens to seek shelter.
play havoc with (someone or something)
To cause issues or disruptions for someone or something. The road closures have played havoc with rush-hour traffic. This humidity is going to play havoc with my hair.
raise havoc with (someone or something)
To cause a lot of serious issues or disruptions for someone or something. The road closures have raised havoc with rush-hour traffic. The blizzard is raising havoc with travelers flying in and out of the region.
wreak (something) on (someone or something)
To cause a lot of something very bad to happen to someone or something. Used especially with "destruction," "havoc," and "vengeance." This humidity is wreaking havoc on my hair. The twister wreaked untold destruction on the tiny town. She swore she would wreak vengeance on the man who double-crossed her.
wreak (something) upon (someone or something)
To cause a lot of something very bad to happen to someone or something. Used especially with "destruction," "havoc," and "vengeance." This humidity is wreaking havoc upon my hair. The twister wreaked untold destruction upon the tiny town.
To cause a lot of problems. Termites have wreaked havoc on the structural integrity of our house, unfortunately.
wreak havoc with (someone or something)
To cause issues or disruptions for someone or something. The road closures have wreaked havoc with rush-hour traffic. This humidity is going to wreak havoc with my hair.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
raise havoc with someone or somethingand play havoc with someone or something
to create confusion or disruption for or among someone or something. Your announcement raised havoc with the students. I didn't mean to play havoc with them.
wreak havoc (with something)
to cause a lot of trouble with something; to ruin or damage something. Your bad attitude will wreak havoc with my project. The rainy weather wreaked havoc with our picnic plans.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Sound an alarm or warning, as in In his sermon the pastor cried havoc to the congregation's biases against gays. The noun havoc was once a command for invaders to begin looting and killing the defenders' town. Shakespeare so used it in Julius Caesar (3:1): "Cry 'Havoc' and let slip the dogs of war." By the 19th century the phrase had acquired its present meaning.
Also, raise or wreak havoc . Disrupt, damage, or destroy something, as in The wind played havoc with her hair, or The fire alarm raised havoc with the children, or The earthquake wrought havoc in the town. The noun havoc was once used as a command for invaders to begin looting and killing, but by the 1800s the term was being used for somewhat less aggressive activities. For a synonym, see play the devil with.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
play havoc withcompletely disrupt; cause serious damage to.
1989 Vijay Singh In Search of the River Goddess I hate contractors who come from the plains, chop down trees, play havoc with our lives.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
play/wreak ˈhavoc with somethingcause damage, destruction or disorder to something: The terrible storms wreaked havoc with electricity supplies, because so many power lines were down.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
To sound an alarm; warn.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Create confusion and inflict destruction. Havoc, which comes from the medieval word for “plunder,” was once a specific command for invading troops to begin looting and killing in a conquered village. This is what Shakespeare meant by his oft-quoted “Cry ‘havoc’ and let slip the dogs of war” (Julius Caesar, 3.1). Although the word still means devastating damage, to wreak it has been transferred to less warlike activities, as in “That puppy will wreak havoc in the living room.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the The Birds of Killingworth (1863) stated, “The crow . . . crushing the beetle in his coat of mail, and crying havoc on the slug and snail.”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer