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 Wu, who also serves as co-writer, is astonishing in her dexterity and ability to evoke the confrontational as certainly as the desolate. Sarah-tai Black, Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Nina Wu,’ a deep psychological dive into exploitation," 2 Apr. 2021 Begay, who now lives and works out of Flagstaff, Arizona, is best known for his paintings of the desolate roads which stretch endlessly through the unmistakable landscapes of the Desert Southwest. Chadd Scott, Forbes, "Shonto Begay: ‘Art Saves Lives’," 17 Apr. 2021 After six months on the International Space Station, the Napa native is set to chart a fiery descent through the earth’s atmosphere aboard a Russian spacecraft bound for a desolate landing field in Kazakhstan. Nora Mishanec, San Francisco Chronicle, "Bay Area astronaut Kate Rubins is set to rocket back to earth Friday. Here's how to watch the launch," 15 Apr. 2021 The patient lived in a converted garage in one of the Valley’s less developed neighborhoods, where the low-slung houses were surrounded by desolate stretches of high desert scrub. ProPublica, "Protect Independent Journalism," 9 Apr. 2021 In the jargon of our times, Winston can be said to have overcompensated for his own desolate childhood by lavishing love on Randolph. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, "‘Churchill & Son’ Review: The Cage of Paternal Love," 2 Apr. 2021 The habitat looked like pure desolate badlands good for nothing but rattlesnakes, coyotes, and mule deer. Gerald Almy, Field & Stream, "8 Overlooked Spring Turkey-Hunting Hotspots," 19 Mar. 2021 The singing of a man cast away upon a desolate island might be as appropriately considered as evidence of contentment and happiness, as the singing of a slave; the songs of the one and of the other are prompted by the same emotion. New York Times, "Black Spirituals as Poetry and Resistance," 5 Mar. 2021 A couple of years ago, my friend Andrew Howard invited me to a desolate ranch for a spring turkey hunt. Josh Dahlke, Outdoor Life, "The Best States to Hunt Early Season Turkeys," 4 Mar. 2021 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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Statistics for desolate

Last Updated

3 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Desolate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/desolate. Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for desolate

desolate

adjective

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

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

Comments on desolate

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