desolate

adjective
des·​o·​late | \ ˈde-sə-lət How to pronounce desolate (audio) , ˈde-zə- \

Definition of desolate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : devoid of inhabitants and visitors : deserted a desolate abandoned town
2 : joyless, disconsolate, and sorrowful through or as if through separation from a loved one a desolate widow
3a : showing the effects of abandonment and neglect : dilapidated a desolate old house
b : barren, lifeless a desolate landscape
c : devoid of warmth, comfort, or hope : gloomy desolate memories

desolate

verb
des·​o·​late | \ ˈde-sə-ˌlāt How to pronounce desolate (audio) , ˈde-zə- \
desolated; desolating

Definition of desolate (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to make desolate:
a : to deprive of inhabitants The neighboring towns were desolated.
b : to lay waste desolating the city with bombs
c : forsake their desolated families back home
d : to make wretched

Other Words from desolate

Adjective

desolately adverb
desolateness noun

Verb

desolater or desolator \ ˈde-​sə-​ˌlā-​tər How to pronounce desolate (audio) , ˈde-​zə-​ \ noun
desolatingly \ ˈde-​sə-​ˌlā-​tiŋ-​lē How to pronounce desolate (audio) , ˈde-​zə-​ \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for desolate

Adjective

alone, solitary, lonely, lonesome, lone, forlorn, desolate mean isolated from others. alone stresses the objective fact of being by oneself with slighter notion of emotional involvement than most of the remaining terms. everyone needs to be alone sometimes solitary may indicate isolation as a chosen course glorying in the calm of her solitary life but more often it suggests sadness and a sense of loss. left solitary by the death of his wife lonely adds to solitary a suggestion of longing for companionship. felt lonely and forsaken lonesome heightens the suggestion of sadness and poignancy. an only child often leads a lonesome life lone may replace lonely or lonesome but typically is as objective as alone. a lone robin pecking at the lawn forlorn stresses dejection, woe, and listlessness at separation from one held dear. a forlorn lost child desolate implies inconsolable grief at loss or bereavement. desolate after her brother's death

dismal, dreary, bleak, gloomy, cheerless, desolate mean devoid of cheer or comfort. dismal indicates extreme and utterly depressing gloominess. dismal weather dreary, often interchangeable with dismal, emphasizes discouragement resulting from sustained dullness or futility. a dreary job bleak suggests chill, dull, and barren characteristics that utterly dishearten. the bleak years of the depression gloomy often suggests lack of hope or promise. gloomy war news cheerless stresses absence of anything cheering. a drab and cheerless office desolate adds an element of utter remoteness or lack of human contact to any already disheartening aspect. a desolate outpost

What is the word origin of desolate?

The word desolate hasn't strayed far from its Latin roots: its earliest meaning of "deserted" mirrors that of its Latin source dēsōlātus, which comes from the verb dēsōlāre, meaning "to leave all alone, forsake, empty of inhabitants." That word's root is sōlus, meaning "lone, acting without a partner, lonely, deserted," source too of sole, soliloquy, solitary, solitude, and solo. Desolate also functions as a verb with its most common meanings being "to lay waste" and "to make wretched; to make someone deeply dejected or distressed."

Examples of desolate in a Sentence

Adjective a desolate house abandoned many years ago he was less desolate after adopting a rescue dog Verb totally desolated the city with aerial bombs
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Arts & Ideas has become one of the state’s top tourist events of the summer, at a time when downtown New Haven would otherwise be desolate after the Yale campus has emptied out. Christopher Arnott, Hartford Courant, 11 June 2022 Boeing’s tower at 100 North Riverside Plaza has been desolate since the beginning of the pandemic, with many employees working from home or accepting buyout terms in 2020 and early 2021 that provided as much as a year’s salary. Julie Johnsson, Fortune, 5 May 2022 But when the gas wells dried up, factories closed and people began to move away, leaving its downtown desolate. Claire Rafford, The Indianapolis Star, 22 Aug. 2022 Despite being a quick stroll to City Hall’s stately dome, the five blocks on Market Street between Sixth and 11th streets were desolate. Roland Li, San Francisco Chronicle, 12 July 2022 Hans Island is just a desolate, kidney shaped piece of rock in the Arctic. Ian Austen, New York Times, 14 June 2022 Severodonetsk and the communities that surround it are growing more desolate by the day. Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, 31 May 2022 In the neighboring gallery, the brown sand had become a desolate, blood-red landscape. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, 15 Aug. 2022 And the glacial drip, drip, drip of ticket sales is only going to worsen as the box office heads for a near desolate stretch with hardly any new offerings from major studios on the horizon. Rebecca Rubin, Variety, 14 Aug. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In the past few weeks, the moviegoing landscape has taken a drastic turn from dreary to downright desolate. Rebecca Rubin, Variety, 30 Aug. 2022 Like any masterful monologue, one felt invited inside the mind behind that desolate yet brave voice. Hannah Edgar, Chicago Tribune, 3 June 2022 For eight weeks, the streets of Paris were empty of traffic and silent, the sidewalks desolate, all but essential food stores closed. Rachel Donadio, The New York Review of Books, 23 July 2020 For eight weeks, the streets of Paris were empty of traffic and silent, the sidewalks desolate, all but essential food stores closed. Rachel Donadio, The New York Review of Books, 23 July 2020 For eight weeks, the streets of Paris were empty of traffic and silent, the sidewalks desolate, all but essential food stores closed. Rachel Donadio, The New York Review of Books, 23 July 2020 For eight weeks, the streets of Paris were empty of traffic and silent, the sidewalks desolate, all but essential food stores closed. Rachel Donadio, The New York Review of Books, 23 July 2020 For eight weeks, the streets of Paris were empty of traffic and silent, the sidewalks desolate, all but essential food stores closed. Rachel Donadio, The New York Review of Books, 23 July 2020 But by summer’s end, the early excitement had died down and many sidewalk tables were languishing unfilled, leaving neighborhood streets desolate rather than boisterous, North End restaurateurs said then. BostonGlobe.com, 28 July 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'desolate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of desolate

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for desolate

Adjective

Middle English desolat, desolate "deserted, lonely, distressed," borrowed from Latin dēsōlātus, past participle of dēsōlāre "to leave all alone, forsake, empty of inhabitants," from dē- de- + -sōlāre, verbal derivative of sōlus "lone, acting without a partner, lonely, deserted," of uncertain origin

Verb

Middle English desolaten (in past participle desolatid "deserted, ruined"), borrowed from Latin dēsōlātus, past participle of dēsōlāre "to leave all alone, forsake, empty of inhabitants" — more at desolate entry 1

Learn More About desolate

Time Traveler for desolate

Time Traveler

The first known use of desolate was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About desolate

Dictionary Entries Near desolate

desoil

desolate

desolation

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for desolate

Last Updated

24 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Desolate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/desolate. Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for desolate

desolate

adjective
des·​o·​late | \ ˈde-sə-lət How to pronounce desolate (audio) \

Kids Definition of desolate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : having no comfort or companionship : lonely
2 : left neglected or in ruins a desolate old house
3 : without signs of life : barren a dry, desolate land
4 : cheerless, gloomy She put aside desolate thoughts.

Other Words from desolate

desolately adverb

desolate

verb
des·​o·​late | \ ˈde-sə-ˌlāt How to pronounce desolate (audio) \
desolated; desolating

Kids Definition of desolate (Entry 2 of 2)

: to ruin or leave without comfort or companionship

More from Merriam-Webster on desolate

Nglish: Translation of desolate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of desolate for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
True or False

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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