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
      [1913 Webster]
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