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

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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?

Adjective

Something that is desolate is literally or figuratively "abandoned," so you probably won't be surprised to learn that "desolate" has its roots in the Latin verb desolare, meaning "to abandon." The Middle English word desolat comes from the past participle of "desolare," which in turn combines the prefix de- and the adjective solus, meaning "alone." "Desolate" is not at all alone in this family of words. Some other familiar descendants of "solus" include "solitary," "sole," "solo," "solitude," and "soliloquy."

Examples of desolate in a Sentence

Adjective a desolate house abandoned many years ago destitute and desolate since her husband walked out on her Verb totally desolated the city with aerial bombs
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Most of the village’s men have disappeared — killed while trying to smuggle opium across the desolate frontier into neighboring Iran. New York Times, "In a Village of Widows, the Opium Trade Has Taken a Deadly Toll," 27 Dec. 2020 But as the flight continued, the fall colors gave way to a desolate sea of gray and black. Joseph Serna, Los Angeles Times, "Changes caused by worsening wildfires in California forests will last centuries," 21 Dec. 2020 The medical worker showing us through the desolate rooms says he's been working here more than a decade and has never seen hospital conditions get this bad. Vasco Cotovio, Isa Soares, William Bonnett, CNN, "Faced with crumbling hospitals, many Covid-19 patients in Venezuela prefer their chances at home," 7 Dec. 2020 The desolate canyon will be just as gorgeous without the obelisk, and now those who want to leave the beaten track can enjoy it, and thousands just like it, without battling the blitz of the #explorers. Mark Sundeen, Outside Online, "Who's Really to Blame for the Monolith Shitshow," 3 Dec. 2020 The airport’s Terminal 1 was desolate just after 9 a.m. Michael Williams, SFChronicle.com, "Bay Area airports all but deserted amid pleas to avoid travel," 22 Dec. 2020 His fame rose to new heights this year as shots of him playing a desolate Times Square became a global symbol of the lockdown and landed him on the cover of New York Magazine. Anne Kadet, WSJ, "Neither Rain, Nor Snow Nor a Pandemic Discourages NYC’s Naked Cowboy," 22 Dec. 2020 However, the growing popularity of a sport that takes place in an uncontrollable and desolate environment prone to avalanches has many members of the industry concerned. NBC News, "Backcountry skiing — and equipment — see surge in interest as ski resorts limit crowds," 21 Dec. 2020 Late last month, the crew of a helicopter surveying a desolate stretch of the Utah desert came across an unexpected finding: a metal structure, tall and thin, gleaming among the matte-red rocks. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "The Refreshing Transactionalism of the KFC-Lifetime Movie," 14 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Tourism in the city has dropped since the coronavirus pandemic began, leaving New York’s normally busy shopping districts desolate. Emma Colton, Washington Examiner, "Manhattan retail chains close with tourism down and locals fleeing to suburbs," 12 Aug. 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, "France: After Lockdown, the Street," 24 June 2020 Night clubs were closed, restaurants abandoned, shopping malls desolate. Karl Taro Greenfeld, The New Yorker, "When SARS Ended," 17 Apr. 2020 Scar then proceeds to desolate the kingdom, with the help of hyenas, while Simba, in exile, grows up to become a pleasure-hunting, grub-eating sluggard. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "Does “The Lion King” Need C.G.I.?," 19 July 2019

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for desolate

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

15 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Desolate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/desolate. Accessed 16 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for desolate

desolate

adjective
How to pronounce desolate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of desolate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: lacking the people, plants, animals, etc., that make people feel welcome in a place
: very sad and lonely especially because someone you love has died or left

desolate

verb
How to pronounce desolate (audio)

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

formal + literary
: to make (someone) feel very sad and lonely for a long time
: to damage (a place) in such a way that it is no longer suitable for people to live in

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

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Comments on desolate

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