des·​o·​la·​tion ˌde-sə-ˈlā-shən How to pronounce desolation (audio)
: the action of desolating
the pitiful desolation and slaughter of World War ID. F. Fleming
: grief, sadness
… he put his trembling hands to his head, and gave a wild ringing scream, the cry of desolation.George Eliot
: devastation, ruin
a scene of utter desolation
: barren wasteland
looked out across the desolation

Example Sentences

She sank into a state of desolation and despair. photos that show the desolation of war
Recent Examples on the Web Despite the sense of desolation, life still abounds around the Titanic. Marisa Sloan, Discover Magazine, 4 Feb. 2022 Each tries to coax a few sprigs of joy and drops of purpose out of her desolation. Vulture, 23 Nov. 2022 The thrill—and the challenge—of this corner of Botswana’s Sua Pan is its desolation. The Editors, Outside Online, 18 June 2021 Schlozman — who also suggested the film echoes the current desolation of the opiate crisis — agrees. Brenna Ehrlich, Rolling Stone, 28 Dec. 2022 The destruction of what Russia claimed to be its own instantly resembled the desolation of what its military had been doing across Ukraine. David Phinney, Los Angeles Times, 12 Dec. 2022 Despite their terse, post-apocalyptic desolation, the Mad Max movies are filled with myths, references to myths, and scenes of myths being created before our very eyes. Vulture, 2 Sep. 2022 Individuals with this form of depression tend to face frequent feelings of fatigue, distress, desolation and detachment during particular periods of the year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Sam Walters, Discover Magazine, 14 Nov. 2022 What if your first step out of desolation is focusing on one of your favorite nights of the year, prepping the best party ever, and then hosting the best party ever? Wayne And Wanda, Anchorage Daily News, 25 Dec. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near desolation

Cite this Entry

“Desolation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


des·​o·​la·​tion ˌdes-ə-ˈlā-shən How to pronounce desolation (audio)
: the action of desolating
: sadness resulting from grief or loneliness
: the condition of being desolated : ruin
: lifeless land

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