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

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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 But when that dream collapses in an intensely tragic way, the valley of ashes across Europe reflects his personal desolation. Washington Post, "For ‘Gatsby’ fans, 2021 will be the start of remakes. First up: ‘Nick’," 29 Dec. 2020 Founded by believers in what was then a small, fringe religion, Utah was then lost in mountain desolation, and widely viewed with suspicion. The Salt Lake Tribune, "A year full of American rancor, with a dash of Utah Nice," 25 Dec. 2020 There’s no way to translate that kind of desolation, just as there’s no way to fully enter someone’s skin-crawling dreams. Eric Boodman, STAT, "As a nurse, she knew the daily traumas of Covid-19. Then her father landed in her ICU," 30 Dec. 2020 There’s the wilderness itself—the desolation of the ridges and the quiet under the cathedral pines. Dave Hurteau, Field & Stream, "6 Classic Rifles for Tracking Deer," 18 Dec. 2020 Kacey Musgraves teams with two frequent co-writers, Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally, to craft a ballad of quiet desolation, a Christmas bummer classic. Jody Rosen, Los Angeles Times, "The 50 best Christmas songs of the last 50 years," 14 Dec. 2020 Normally teeming spaces like Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square needed only blowing tumbleweed to complete the portrait of urban desolation. Mark Landler, New York Times, "‘Field of Broken Dreams’: London’s Growing Taxi Graveyards," 3 Dec. 2020 They also are accused of coordinating ransom negotiations -- via email -- for Western captives and of marching helpless victims into desolation for their final, on-camera plea for their lives. Hollie Mckay, Fox News, "Bringing the 'ISIS Beatles' to justice in US courts: Behind the complex mission," 21 Oct. 2020 Cabimas’s desolation marks a swift downfall for a town that just a decade ago was one of the richest in Venezuela. Isayen Herrera, New York Times, "Venezuela, Once an Oil Giant, Reaches the End of an Era," 7 Oct. 2020

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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Time Traveler for desolation

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for desolation

Last Updated

29 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Desolation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for desolation



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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for desolation

Nglish: Translation of desolation for Spanish Speakers

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