de·​sire | \di-ˈzī(-ə)r, dē-\
desired; desiring

Definition of desire 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to long or hope for : exhibit or feel desire for desire success knew that men still desired her

2a : to express a wish for : request they desire an immediate answer

b archaic : to express a wish to : ask desired them to reconsider

3 obsolete : invite

4 archaic : to feel the loss of

intransitive verb

: to have or feel desire They may come if they so desire.



Definition of desire (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : conscious impulse (see impulse entry 2 sense 3) toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment ridding oneself of all desires how humans process desire

2a : longing, craving teenagers' desire for independence … the inexpensive homebuilt craft that satisfy many people's desire to fly— James Fallows

b : sexual urge or appetite

3 : something longed or hoped for : something desired You are my heart's desire.

4 : a usually formal request or petition for some action at the desire of one fifth of those presentU.S. Constitution

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Choose the Right Synonym for desire


desire, wish, want, crave, covet mean to have a longing for. desire stresses the strength of feeling and often implies strong intention or aim. desires to start a new life wish sometimes implies a general or transient longing especially for the unattainable. wishes for permanent world peace want specifically suggests a felt need or lack. wants to have a family crave stresses the force of physical appetite or emotional need. craves sweets covet implies strong envious desire. covets his rise to fame


desire, wish, and crave mean to want something very much. desire is used when a person has a great feeling for and actually strives to get what is wanted. The immigrants desired a better life. wish is used when a person wants something that he or she has little or no chance of getting. He foolishly sat around and wished for wealth. crave is used for the force of physical or mental needs. The hungry dogs craved food.

Examples of desire in a Sentence


He desired her approval more than anything. The apartment has modern amenities, a great location—everything you could desire. She knew that men still desired her.


Desire is a common theme is music and literature. The magazine tries to attend to the needs and desires of its readers. Both sides feel a real desire for peace. His decisions are guided by his desire for land. They expressed a desire to go with us. They have a desire to have children. a strong desire to travel around the world He was overcome with desire for her.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Transfer to a bowl, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with paprika or crushed red pepper flakes if desired. Joy Bauer, Ms, Woman's Day, "Lentil Hummus," 25 Oct. 2018 Serve topped with almonds, scallions, and cilantro if desired. The Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, Good Housekeeping, "Roasted Red Pepper Soup," 24 Oct. 2018 Women get off on seeing themselves desired by other people. Amanda Mitchell, Marie Claire, "The "Wonderful Weirdness" of Female Sexuality," 23 Oct. 2018 Pipe the rest of the frosting onto cookies for serving, if desired. Redbook Test Kitchen, Redbook, "Marshmallow Ghosts," 19 Sep. 2018 Drizzle with olive oil and an additional pinch of sea salt if desired; serve immediately. Christina Pérez, Vogue, "3 Fancy But Easy BBQ Recipes to Grill Before Summer Is Over," 30 Aug. 2018 Drizzle with chimichurri sauce and top each scallop with a small spoonful of chipotle aioli, if desired. Claire Perez,, "At Bonefish Grill, summer corn calls for scallops," 13 July 2018 The book is a guide to understanding behavior and to changing it, if desired. Hartford Courant,, "Write Stuff: Charles Monagan Kicks Off CT Authors Trail, Avon's Author Fest Continues," 11 July 2018 Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and beef base, if desired. Nancy Miller, The Courier-Journal, "More than just a gastropub. Food at Monnik is as awesome as the beer," 10 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

There are other factors that contributed to her desire to leave, including shoulder woes from carrying heavy equipment for many years and a constant diet of murders and other depressing story assignments. David Bauder, The Seattle Times, "Anger toward media spreads into local communities," 30 Oct. 2018 Speaking of desire, Venus cruises into Libra on Monday, August 6, activating the area of your chart associated with emotional intimacy. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "What August's Pisces Horoscope Means for You," 30 July 2018 Apparently, part of the incentive for this trade discussion is Orlando’s desire to add size at point guard. Rick Bonnell, charlotteobserver, "Reports: Trade could send Bismack Biyombo back to the Charlotte Hornets," 7 July 2018 Critics say they are motivated by executives’ desire to boost the value of the stock options and allocations in their remuneration packages. Avantika Chilkoti, WSJ, "Corporate Buybacks Return, Supporting Market," 2 Nov. 2018 She and many others like her are driven by a genuine desire to help. Abigail Higgins, Vox, "How the “white-savior industrial complex” failed Liberia’s girls," 24 Oct. 2018 Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, has said she was motivated by a desire to protect Ford's identity, but Republicans countered that Feinstein could have mentioned the allegations without naming Ford. Gregg Re, Fox News, "Kavanaugh accuser Christine Ford opens door to testifying next week," 20 Sep. 2018 According to the brand’s representatives, the film was fueled by a desire to bring back tales of the past. Sarah Nechamkin, The Cut, "Watch Kenzo’s Dreamy Reimagining of an Ancient Japanese Folktale," 13 July 2018 Others joined out of a deep-rooted desire to win against more experienced family members. Zahria Rogers, The Courier-Journal, "West Louisville Chess Club not dwelling on controversial Bevin remarks," 13 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'desire.' 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 desire


13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for desire


Middle English, from Anglo-French desirer, from Latin desiderare, from de- + sider-, sidus heavenly body


see desire entry 1

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Statistics for desire

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for desire

The first known use of desire was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for desire



English Language Learners Definition of desire

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to want or wish for (something) : to feel desire for (something)

: to want to have sex with (someone)

: to express a wish for (something)



English Language Learners Definition of desire (Entry 2 of 2)

: the feeling of wanting something

: a strong wish : a wish for something or to do something

: a feeling of wanting to have sex with someone


de·​sire | \di-ˈzīr \
desired; desiring

Kids Definition of desire

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to long for : wish for in earnest Both sides desire peace.

2 : to express a wish for : request The council desires an immediate response.



Kids Definition of desire (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a strong wish : longing a desire for companionship

2 : something longed for It was his heart's desire to return home.

desired; desiring

Legal Definition of desire 

: to wish for earnestly — see also precatory

Note: Courts have variously interpreted desire in wills to indicate either a direction of the testator that must be followed or merely an expression of what the testator hoped would happen.

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More from Merriam-Webster on desire

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with desire

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for desire

Spanish Central: Translation of desire

Nglish: Translation of desire for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of desire for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about desire

Comments on desire

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


to enclose within walls

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