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

Definition of consternation

  1. :  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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Examples of consternation in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. The candidate caused consternation among his supporters by changing positions on a key issue.

  5. Much to her parents' consternation, she had decided to not go to college.

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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

First Known Use: 1604

CONSTERNATION Defined for English Language Learners


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

Definition of consternation for English Language Learners

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

CONSTERNATION Defined for Kids


noun con·ster·na·tion \ˌkän-stər-ˈnā-shən\

Definition of consternation for Students

  1. :  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

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up consternation? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a rounded knoll or a ridge of ice

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