con·​ster·​na·​tion | \ˌkän(t)-stər-ˈnā-shən \

Definition of consternation 

: amazement or dismay that hinders or throws into confusion the two … stared at each other in consternation, and neither knew what to do— Pearl Buck

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Did You Know?

Wonder what the seemingly dissimilar words prostrate ("stretched out with face on the ground"), stratum ("layer"), and stratus ("a low cloud form extending over a large area") have in common with consternation? They are all thought to share the Latin ancestor sternere, meaning "to spread" or "to strike or throw down." Much to our consternation, we cannot make that sentence definitive: while prostrate, stratum, and stratus are clearly the offspring of sternere, etymologists will only go so far as to say that consternation comes from Latin consternare—and that they have a strong suspicion that consternare is another descendent of sternere.

Examples of consternation in a Sentence

The fact that the exact depth was recorded on the bottles was the source of considerable consternation among the admirals presiding over the Navy inquiry last week. The depth an attack sub can reach is supposed to be classified …  . — Karen Breslau et al., Newsweek, 2 Apr. 2001 In the grimy market-places where so-called friendly intelligence services do their trading, tip-offs, like money, are laundered in all sorts of ways …  . They can be blown up so as to cause consternation or tempered to encourage complacency. — John le Carré, Granta 35, Spring 1991 The King was relaxing; his face had softened. Awful, to have to banish this hard-earned peace, burden him with a fresh worry. But better he should hear it from his loyalest baron, his own brother, than have the news blurted out to him by some idiot agent avid to cause a maximum of consternation. — Colleen McCullough, The First Man in Rome, 1990 The candidate caused consternation among his supporters by changing positions on a key issue. Much to her parents' consternation, she had decided to not go to college.
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Recent Examples on the Web

One senior European diplomat said there was some consternation in the bloc that Seoul was pushing for sanctions relief before a permanent denuclearization process had been established. Laurence Norman, WSJ, "Moon’s Push to Ease North Korea Sanctions Falls Flat," 19 Oct. 2018 The order is not being seriously considered, according to this report — to the consternation of Yelp, which apparently wrote it. Casey Newton, The Verge, "The case that Russia is winning the cyberwar," 25 Sep. 2018 Despite the consternation about how they’ve been rolled out, public opinion is on their side. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Electric scooters’ sudden invasion of American cities, explained," 7 Sep. 2018 Of course, there was much consternation in Seattle about giving up Walker, in particular, with the risk that his undeniable talent would blossom elsewhere. Larry Stone, The Seattle Times, "Mariners’ 2016 trade for Mitch Haniger, Jean Segura changed course of franchise," 16 July 2018 Brown said there was little consternation, limited debate and few controversial bills during the session. Craig Lyons, Post-Tribune, "Indiana Reps. Brown, Lawson wrap up legislative tenures," 20 Mar. 2018 For all the consternation about Team USA's struggles in certain events, the reason could be as simple as the improvement of other nations and the presence of some once-in-a-generation stars pushing Americans to the background. Jerry Brewer,, "Stop treating extreme sport athletes as second-class Olympians," 21 Feb. 2018 The consternation around the pick arises because there are too many good quarterback options. Doug Lesmerises,, "Why the Browns may get their QB draft pick right no matter what: Doug Lesmerises," 17 Apr. 2018 To the consternation of some McKinsey partners, that arrangement continued until the end of June 2016. New York Times, "How McKinsey Lost Its Way in South Africa," 26 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'consternation.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of consternation

1604, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for consternation

French or Latin; French, from Latin consternation-, consternatio, from consternare to throw into confusion, from com- + -sternare, probably from sternere to spread, strike down — more at strew

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Last Updated

26 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for consternation

The first known use of consternation was in 1604

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More Definitions for consternation



English Language Learners Definition of consternation

: a strong feeling of surprise or sudden disappointment that causes confusion


con·​ster·​na·​tion | \ˌkän-stər-ˈnā-shən \

Kids Definition of consternation

: a strong feeling of surprise or sudden disappointment that causes confusion But then Dopey Lekisch called out in consternation, "The messenger himself will trample the treasure."— Isaac Bashevis Singer, Zlateh the Goat

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More from Merriam-Webster on consternation

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with consternation

Spanish Central: Translation of consternation

Nglish: Translation of consternation for Spanish Speakers

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to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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