con·​ster·​na·​tion | \ ˌkän(t)-stər-ˈnā-shən How to pronounce consternation (audio) \

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

The likes of Morgan Schneiderlin and Kevin Mirallas will surely be sold this coming summer too with their training ground misdemeanour in November causing widespread consternation among the Goodison faithful., "FanView: Everton's Stars Are Playing for Their Futures as 17/18 Season Splutters on," 6 Feb. 2018 The consternation surrounding the missed call tainted a game that otherwise was an instant classic. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "The Blown Call that Will Live On in New Orleans Infamy," 21 Jan. 2019 The political uncertainty in Europe’s south, combined with yet another humiliation from Mr. Trump’s Washington, has only added to the sense of consternation, if not crisis, on the Continent. Steven Erlanger, New York Times, "A Day of Peril for the E.U.: Threats Emerge From the U.S. and Within," 1 June 2018 Remember a few weeks ago when there was much consternation over Seattle’s sudden struggles at home — a 2-6 record in an eight-game span stretching over almost exactly a calendar year? Bob Condotta, The Seattle Times, "The Final Word: Bob Condotta examines what worked in the Seahawks’ win vs. the Vikings," 11 Dec. 2018 It was shipped to the United States and unveiled in 1886, to much consternation. Michael O’donnell, WSJ, "‘Sentinel’ Review: The New Colossus," 9 Nov. 2018 Whatever the cause, the tweet generated much consternation on Capitol Hill, where members already have left Washington for a two-week recess. David Lauter,, "Trump throws off another restraint, firing McMaster as he starts a possible trade war," 23 Mar. 2018 That description is contrary to the reaction of many diplomacy and national security experts, who have expressed consternation at the administration's — in particular the president's — erratic handling of the high-stakes dealings with North Korea. David S. Cloud,, "A day after canceling North Korea summit, Trump says it may be back on," 25 May 2018 That episode caused consternation at City Hall, with Mayor Martin J. Walsh at one point walking out of a meeting with CLF in frustration. Tim Logan,, "Environmental group objects to zoning that allows waterfront towers," 22 May 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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Statistics for consternation

Last Updated

16 Apr 2019

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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

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


con·​ster·​na·​tion | \ ˌkän-stər-ˈnā-shən How to pronounce consternation (audio) \

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for consternation

Spanish Central: Translation of consternation

Nglish: Translation of consternation for Spanish Speakers

Comments on consternation

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to move or proceed with twists and turns

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