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

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 Bumgarner’s velocity has been an occasional source of consternation for him in recent seasons. Nick Piecoro, The Arizona Republic, 22 Mar. 2022 Punted out into the public, this messy discourse warped into confusion, consternation, and apathy. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 12 Apr. 2022 Leaders of the country’s major professional sports leagues expressed little consternation over the announcement of President Joe Biden’s new vaccination mandate., 11 Sep. 2021 Moderate Democrats have expressed relatively little consternation over the scope of the budget’s spending ambitions, at least publicly. New York Times, 15 July 2021 So much emphasis had been on the team's need for a wide receiver, so when the Packers made early selections addressing other positions, there was a healthy dose of draft-day consternation in Titletown. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 21 Apr. 2022 From a home on Saint James Street to Cleveland Court to Woodcrest—where James lived with a new wife, a source of some family consternation. Roy S. Johnson |, al, 18 Apr. 2022 Finally, after 42 years and recent consternation, that will change in July when Dodger Stadium hosts the All-Star game and its growing list of events. Jorge Castillostaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 4 Apr. 2022 The public health provision, known as Title 42, has largely blocked migrants from entering the US and has attracted the consternation of Democrats and immigration advocates who say there is no scientific justification for the restriction. Aj Willingham, CNN, 31 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of consternation was in 1604

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Last Updated

20 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Consternation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for consternation


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 and Other Stories

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Nglish: Translation of consternation for Spanish Speakers


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