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

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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Trump suspended some upcoming joint drills in a goodwill gesture after his summit with Kim, causing some consternation among experts about the impact on both countries’ military readiness. Washington Post, "Analysis: Harsh words may mean NKorea seeks deal with Trump," 9 July 2018 That preceded an eventful offseason that saw the departure of longtime GM Ted Thompson and, later, the release of Rodgers' favorite receiver and good friend, Jordy Nelson — much to the quarterback's consternation, according to a report from Yahoo! Nate Davis, USA TODAY, "Packers training camp questions: Besides Aaron Rodgers' return, why else might Green Bay surge?," 11 July 2018 The test inspires consternation and fear among existing employees, according to former employees. Laura Cooper, WSJ, "Billionaire’s Secret Buyout Formula: 110 Instructions and an Intelligence Test," 9 July 2018 Beyond the fireworks, the plaza at Exchange Place has been a focal point for growth, as well as the consternation that has come with the city’s evolution. New York Times, "Jersey City Makes a Statement With Fireworks Over the Hudson," 3 July 2018 After much consternation and consideration and to maintain a 'classy environment,' Replay Lincoln Park has implemented a new and strictly enforced dress code. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "Chicago bar backs down after backlash to ban on "Make America Great Again" Trump hats," 1 July 2018 Now, amid the uncertainty of a Wade return to the Miami Heat next season, the South Florida icon is floating the possibility of aligning with a fourth NBA franchise -- one that is dormant, much, seemingly, to Wade's consternation. Ira Winderman,, "Dwyane Wade eyes NBA ownership stake . . . in Seattle?," 25 June 2018 The Milwaukee Bucks have spent the past few months engaged in preparations and consternation that was kept both under wraps and behind closed doors. Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Bucks select Donte DiVincenzo with 17th pick in NBA draft," 21 June 2018 Interviews with a dozen diplomats and foreign policy experts, some of whom requested anonymity to speak openly due to the sensitivity of the issue, underscore the widespread consternation with a seemingly incurious and blustery president. Eli Stokols,, "Trump claims U.S. is ‘respected again' in the world. 'Preposterous,' say allies and diplomats.," 7 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about consternation

Share consternation

Listen to Our Podcast about consternation

Statistics for consternation

Last Updated

15 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for consternation

The first known use of consternation was in 1604

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for consternation



English Language Learners Definition of consternation

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


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

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on consternation

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


a generally accepted meaning of a word

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!