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From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Avalanche \Av"a*lanche`\ (?; 277), n. [F. avalanche, fr. avaler to descend, to let down, from aval down, downward; ? (L. ad) + val, L. vallis, valley. See Valley.] 1. A large mass or body of snow and ice sliding swiftly down a mountain side, or falling down a precipice. [1913 Webster] 2. A fall of earth, rocks, etc., similar to that of an avalanche of snow or ice. [1913 Webster] 3. A sudden, great, or irresistible descent or influx of anything. [1913 Webster]