Definition of consternation
- the two … stared at each other in consternation, and neither knew what to do
- —Pearl Buck
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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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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.
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