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 President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have repeatedly signaled that former President Donald Trump’s tariffs against China are likely to continue for now, an area of consternation for Beijing. Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner, "Kerry bets on setting aside confrontation with China to combat climate change," 9 Feb. 2021 The consternation about what went wrong in the game can wait until after the final whistle. Mike Rodak |, al, "Just breathe: How ‘silent assassin’ Mac Jones learned to stay calm," 8 Oct. 2020 So a woman's new Amazon Alexa takes on the voice — and body — of actor Michael B. Johnson, to the consternation of her hapless husband. Mae Anderson, ajc, "Super Bowl ads aim to comfort and connect," 5 Feb. 2021 The timing of the highway flyover project became a source of consternation to some motorists, as ground wasn't broken for it until after the new $1 billion airport terminal opened in November 2019. Chad Calder | Staff Writer,, "New Orleans Airport flyover project taking shape, on track to finish in the second half of 2022," 16 Jan. 2021 Even with the World Series still under way, there are still plenty of A’s questions out there — and a lot of consternation among Oakland fans. Susan Slusser,, "A’s Mailbag: If Beane leaves, what’s next? Will Semien stay? Is team’s window closed?," 27 Oct. 2020 Those demands from Hunter Biden were a cause of consternation between Gilliar and Bobulinksi, who kept an open line of communication on the texting platform WhatsApp. Jerry Dunleavy, Washington Examiner, "Leaked files show years of Hunter Biden's business dealings," 22 Oct. 2020 And there was a lot of consternation when Barrett refused to answer a question about whether presidents should commit to a peaceful transfer of power., "Amy Coney Barrett’s Identity As A White, Christian Mother Is A Shield — & A Weapon," 16 Oct. 2020 Her literary forays are guided by Norman, a junior kitchen employee, to the consternation of pompous senior advisers. Globe Staff,, "The Fast Forward 2020 Winter Bookies reading list," 4 Jan. 2021

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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Time Traveler for consternation

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The first known use of consternation was in 1604

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Last Updated

25 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Consternation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.

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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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