Court disaster

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To court disaster is an interesting expression that many find confusing, and it may not be as old as you think. Many English expressions have a different definition than one might assume at first glance. We will examine the meaning of the verbal phrase court disaster, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To court disaster means to take unnecessary risks, to follow a course of action that may bring ruin, to walk a proverbial tightrope. The most common meaning of the word court is a judicial system or access to justice, a courtroom or court building, or the court system of judges and lawyers. The justice system includes civil cases, small claims cases, probate cases and criminal cases. Presiding judges in trial courts hear testimony after witnesses are sworn in or take and oath and oral arguments delivered by attorneys for both sides. The judiciary includes state court, federal courts, appellate courts also known as courts of appeals, circuit courts, and at the apex, a supreme court. However, this is not the meaning of the word court in the expression to court disaster. The definition used in this phrase originated in the 1600s and means to keep company, to cultivate favor, to seek out. This definition of the verb court is derived from the behavior displayed in royal courts, where sycophants ingratiated themselves with the king in order to receive favors. Court is derived from the Old French word, cort, meaning the residence of the king or sovereign. Perhaps the most notorious courts for intrigue and manipulation were the French royal courts in the 1500s-1700s. The verb court to mean keep company or seek out came into use in the mid-1800s, and the popularity of the expression court disaster exploded at the turn of the twentieth century. Related phrases are courts disaster, courted disaster, courting disaster.


Business and education groups warn that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may court disaster if the agency implements a new electronic system for H-1B petitions without sufficient testing and input from employers. (Forbes Magazine)

The Chinese government warned self-ruled Taiwan on Thursday that it was courting “disaster”, after the running mate for President Tsai Ing-wen in January elections said he was working toward the island’s independence, a red line for Beijing. (Reuters)

The company decided to “court disaster, instead of waiting and doing nothing”, Huang said. (The South China Morning Post)

Ryanair is to be investigated by Irish and Spanish aviation authorities following accusations from pilots’ leaders that the budget airline is ‘courting disaster’ by flying planes with near-empty fuel tanks to cut costs. (The Daily Mail)