con·​ster·​na·​tion ˌkän(t)-stər-ˈnā-shən How to pronounce consternation (audio)
: amazement or dismay that hinders or throws into confusion
the two … stared at each other in consternation, and neither knew what to doPearl Buck

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.
Recent Examples on the Web The omission of several songs from the tour’s setlist was a source of consternation for some completist fans when the film opened in October, although many correctly guessed that the 2-hours-45-minutes film would get an expansion when the movie became available for home viewing. Chris Willman, Variety, 27 Nov. 2023 No email has been sent to Palestinian employees in the United States or abroad, causing consternation among some of the approximately 2,000 members of the Arab employee group. Gerrit De Vynck, Washington Post, 22 Oct. 2023 Since they had been presented as a part of the SAG-AFTRA strike, interim agreements have caused much consternation and confusion, especially heading into the fall festivals. Mia Galuppo, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 Sep. 2023 Their gambit has prompted consternation among more mainstream House Republicans who are keenly aware that their party would be badly damaged by a shutdown. Karoun Demirjian, New York Times, 1 Sep. 2023 In Norway, each guard is responsible for a few dozen inmates at most — a number that has increased because of budget cuts, much to the consternation of both guards and management. Anita Chabria, Los Angeles Times, 9 Nov. 2023 Trump’s public comments have caused consternation among law enforcement officials worried about ensuring fair trials and the security of witnesses, prosecutors and court workers. Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu and Isaac Arnsdorf, Anchorage Daily News, 21 Aug. 2023 Yet there is another side to that rapid expansion, one that is causing consternation in Washington at a critical period of climate diplomacy: China is also building new power plants that burn coal, the dirtiest of the fossil fuels, at a pace that dwarfs the rest of the world. Lisa Friedman, New York Times, 2 Nov. 2023 In the program, which takes around seven hours to complete, participants are placed in groups where they’re taught how to listen to one another’s consternations without judgment and recommend suitable services. Paige McGlauflin, Fortune, 20 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'consternation.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of consternation was in 1604


Dictionary Entries Near consternation

Cite this Entry

“Consternation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


con·​ster·​na·​tion ˌkän(t)-stər-ˈnā-shən How to pronounce consternation (audio)
: amazement or dismay that makes one feel helpless or confused

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