I am a little confused to ask this question here. I mean this question objectively. In search of English synonyms for the word "disaster", I came across the word "clusterfuck".

Military term for an operation in which multiple things have gone wrong. [...]

In radio communication or polite conversation (i.e. with a very senior officer with whom you have no prior experience) the term "clusterfuck" will often be replaced by the NATO phonetic acronym "Charlie Foxtrot."

Is there a direct translation of this into German? Google Translator and dict.leo.org are not a great help.

3 Answers 3


You could use "Fiasko", "Debakel" or "Katastrophe".

"Pleite" and "Niederlage" have a quite similar meaning, but without that strong sound. "Vernichtende Niederlage" could also be used. Nowadays even "Fail"/"Epic Fail" are used by the younger generation. While these phrases imply responsibility, "Misere" does not.

"Zwickmühle" describes a situation where every alternative is hopeless.

  • 3
    "Fiasko" and "Debakel" sound good. "Niederlage" has very different connotations in my opinion; "vernichtende Niederlage" is kind of a synonym for "Waterloo" (or the other way around). Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 8:02

I'd offer "ein ordentlicher Schlamassel", but it doesn't really have the same ring to it.

  • Is it das or der Schlamassel? Or both?
    – splattne
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 10:21
  • das Schlamassel. There might be regional differences though.
    – FUZxxl
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 18:03
  • According to Wiktionary in Germany it is mostly der Schlamassel while in Austria it is das Schlamassel.
    – mosaic
    Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 13:28

An idiomatic way of saying this would be:

Da ist wirklich alles schiefgegangen, was schiefgehen kann.

Another word that comes to mind (in addition to Fiasko, Debakel and Katastrophe) is

GAU (größter anzunehmender Unfall) or

Super-GAU (GAU is pronounced just as gau in both cases, not letter for letter)

which also often implies that more than one thing has gone wrong. It is also slightly colloquial, but you will find it in newspapers from time to time. And it's der GAU. Desaster is also possible, but I guess Super-GAU comes closest to the ring that clusterfuck has to it.
None of these are limited to a military context though and I wouldn't know if the military uses them.

I agree that epic fail would be a good alternative amongst younger people, although it has some derisive element. So you're either laughing about someone else (with some Schadenfreude) or you're trying to laugh about your own mistakes.

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