des·​o·​la·​tion | \ ˌde-sə-ˈlā-shən How to pronounce desolation (audio) , ˌde-zə- \

Definition of desolation

1 : the action of desolating the pitiful desolation and slaughter of World War I— D. F. Fleming
2a : grief, sadness … he put his trembling hands to his head, and gave a wild ringing scream, the cry of desolation.— George Eliot
3 : devastation, ruin a scene of utter desolation
4 : barren wasteland looked out across the desolation

Examples of desolation in a Sentence

She sank into a state of desolation and despair. photos that show the desolation of war
Recent Examples on the Web Tundra brings to mind desolation, but this region is in fact packed with life. Matt Simon, Wired, 4 Jan. 2022 The soaring cliffs of the Sierra Anchas rise to the east and the deep canyons of the Salome Wilderness fall away to the west, which gives a good indication of the breath-snatching desolation defining this journey. Roger Naylor, The Arizona Republic, 29 Dec. 2021 The desolation left by fame’s fickleness struck a deep chord. Los Angeles Times, 10 Oct. 2021 There's a constant reminder of the fragile nature of the architecture despite its survival in desolation for more than a hundred years. Sarah Walton, CNN, 31 Oct. 2021 While the charlatan won’t ever stop daydreaming of magically zooming up the social ladder, the film is clear-eyed about the desolation that lays before him. Washington Post, 8 Oct. 2021 To sate the needs of the Roman Empire, camels hauled some 3,000 tons of it a year across the desolation of Arabia’s Rub’ al Khali, or Empty Quarter, the largest unbroken sweep of sand on earth. New York Times, 7 May 2021 Its name suggests danger or desolation, and the 1.3-million-acre stretch of Central Florida known as Bone Valley is indeed a land raked by excavators, tainted by waste and rife with tensions. Washington Post, 27 Oct. 2021 But conditions on the ground have become a litany of desolation. Robin George Andrews, The Atlantic, 18 Oct. 2021

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for desolation

Middle English desolacion, desolacioun "state of distress or hardship, feeling of distress, affliction," borrowed from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French desolacion, borrowed from Late Latin dēsōlātiōn-, dēsōlātiō "abandonment, solitude," from Latin dēsōlāre "to leave all alone, forsake, empty of inhabitants" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at desolate entry 1

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

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Last Updated

17 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Desolation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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English Language Learners Definition of desolation

: extreme sadness caused by loss or loneliness
: the condition of a place or thing that has been damaged in such a way that it is no longer suitable for people to live in : the state or condition of being desolate


des·​o·​la·​tion | \ ˌde-sə-ˈlā-shən How to pronounce desolation (audio) \

Kids Definition of desolation

1 : the state of being deserted or ruined Photos showed the desolation left by the fire.
2 : sadness resulting from grief or loneliness

More from Merriam-Webster on desolation

Nglish: Translation of desolation for Spanish Speakers


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